There is a thing going on with bloggers and writers at the moment. It’s called a blog tour and it works like this:
- Each blogger involved answers 4 questions about how and why they write
- They then pass the baton to another writer, who publishes answers to the same questions the following week, thanking the person who tagged them.
It’s that simple. When Sophie, of Franglaise Mummy, asked me if I’d like to be her ‘tagee’ I hesitated. I’m not normally a partaker of memes and tours; I don’t enjoy writing to a prescribed structure; and I’m so busy keeping up with all my writing commitments that how on earth would I find time to write about how I write? But then I thought a bit harder, and realised that Sophie has done me a favour. It’s time to stop for a moment and think about what I write, why I write it, and whether or not it’s doing what I need it to do. So here I am, thanking Sophie, who, by the way, has just published a book. Insider tips for kids outings in London is a collection of Sophie’s experiences of ‘doing’ London with her family – an invaluable collection of advice from one who has been there and bought the tickets. She’s offering it free on her blog and I’d heartily recommend signing up.
I was recently asked by Laura, founder of Blogs Up North, to speak on a panel about creative copy, and how to do it well. Alongside Jane and Penny – both fabulous writers – we talked for several hours about how to get the most out of our writing. And do you know what? The biggest revelation to come out of that panel is that for similarly engaging writing, we all have a completely different approach!
So here’s what I do, and what I now know about my writing process:
1) What am I working on?
This blog forms about half of my writing. The rest comes from clients whose blogs I manage and provide content for. Can I write a book? Will I ever write a book? I cannot say; there’s certainly one in there, but for now I’m busy writing what I’m writing. I suppose that the book can’t be good enough, or exciting enough, if it’s not at the top of my priority list. I know this because I’m currently pushing the boundaries by working on two new initiatives which excite me. I cannot say too much as yet, but there is screenwriting involved, and there is travel. When you want something, you prioritise it.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Until recently I would have said that this is a Mummy Blog with a difference, because of the voice in which I wrote. Bizarrely, I’ve always been able to write in someone else’s voice – ghostwriting. I suppose this is what makes me good a professional blogger – I find it easy to get under the skin of a business, or personality, and write in a style that reflects their own. Blog clients have always been very happy with the results.
This blog began as the thoughts and musings of my daughter, but more recently I’m finding that I’m losing the capacity to connect with her voice, to predict it. I struggled with that for a while, but I wonder if it is part of the natural process of her growing up, moving away from me emotionally, albeit gradually, and finding her own identity? In any case, I’ve found more recently that my own voice is beginning to take precedence, and that where once I struggled to write as myself, I am increasingly at ease with articulating my own thoughts in black and white.
3) Why do I write what I do?
Because it’s easy. It feels natural to write about the key moments in our lives as our children grow. Because I want to preserve memories for them to reflect on when one day they no longer want to engage as fully with their parents, but are still curious as to their early lives.
4) How does my writing process work?
Here is where I will digress a little. I wanted to share some of what I talked about on that creative copy panel at BlogOn. Because it’s what makes me comfortable as a writer, what makes me happy that my words do the job they are meant to.
Honesty and professionalism:
This blog is massively busy, all of the time. I say no more often than yes to the approaches I get, and still I sit up into the small hours meeting deadlines for clients. And they are all clients. I treat each feature on the blog as I would my non-blog clients; I do my best with each post, am thorough with each product, and I am fair and honest with my reviews. For me, there really is no point otherwise.
I (almost) never write about something these days unless it truly resonates with me, or I can see it being a hit with my family. I have turned down some fabulous opportunities because upon reading the email I’ve thought “Can I honestly see us loving this? Is this something one of us has fantasised about or craved? Will it bring us together as a family and help us to make memories?” Because if the answer is no, then my writing won’t work. I will procrastinate, the words will be laboured, and that will reflect in the post. Which means that people won’t read it. So I say no, and leave it for someone who will do a better job than me.
Often though, I will sleep on a post for days – sometimes even weeks – until I have an angle. Unless I have the hook upon which to hang my story, I don’t start writing. I’ll turn it over in my mind as I do the school run, jot down notes as I write for a client, even text myself from a train journey if I suddenly have a moment of inspiration. Once I have it, I’ll know. The post will just write itself and I’ll be finished within the hour, barring spell-checks and image editing.
Above my laptop, on the wall, is a wipe-clean whiteboard. It contains a list of words and phrases that won’t mean much to anyone but me. These are possible posts. Most of them will never make it onto the keyboard, but as they glare at me while I work, occasionally one of them will start to sprout, like a seed that has finally found the light of day, and become the beginnings of an article. It also means I never see a brilliant post by someone else and think “Ooh! Dammit! I was going to write about that but I forgot!”
I could go on all day, but I’ve broken one of my writing rules. Never write more than 900 words on a blog post – no-one will read to the end… 🙂
If you did, and you’d like to be tagged in the My Writing Process blog tour, do please shout at me on Twitter, because I’m rubbish at asking folk to do things for me, and the slot is vacant for next week 😉
Update! I tag Michelle from Mummy From the Heart, who has offered, and who has inspired me with her writing since the very beginning 🙂