Just write.

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This is the most common piece of writing advice out there. It’s a good one. Good for anybody who needs to communicate through written words: students, teachers, CEO’s, political leaders, or writers—all can use this tip. Although, for beginners or for those who are experienced but are running out of creative juices, this piece of advice won’t help.

If you need to write but your artsy side is momentarily dormant, what will you write, and how do you even start?

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I know it’s not easy but there are things you can do to alleviate the situation. Here’s one of the best: Study, learn, and know the stages of writing. This way, you can write following a step by step formula.

So... let’s break down the writing process to make it less overwhelming, shall we? After reading this, you’ll be ready to take on a new writing project ‘cause you’ll be armed with the new confidence of knowing exactly how to tackle it.

The Four Stages Of Writing

Outlining

What topic do you want to write about? Create an outline and write down the key points you want to discuss.

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It’s okay if your outline is not perfect. At least if you make one, you’ll have a sort of a map to follow while composing your thoughts—forming them into comprehensible sentences. Another advantage of having an outline is this—you can prevent that dreadful blinking cursor on your blank page from staring you to death! Yes, by having an outline, you can avoid this digital torture.

Drafting

For many writers, this is the hardest part. Being in this stage may cause some writers to feel their own resistance to actually doing the work. For others, they couldn’t stop themselves from writing and editing at the same time.

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Talking about resistance, the sad part is... it may lead to procrastination. And many writers can’t get past this predicament because they give in to it. Fortunately, there’s an effective way to solve it; think of the effects of not being able to write. Some could be: your income may be badly affected by your inability to produce written work, clients may brand you as unreliable, and turning in pieces of writing with poor quality. Knowing these and other facts will help you overcome resistance.

Also, remember to quiet your inner critic. Just do one thing. Write. Start jotting down your thoughts and ideas; let them flow. This is the part where you should take the piece of advice: just write. At this point, the way to do it is to write down all the things that you want to say. Set aside worrying about spelling, grammar, structure, or diction (choosing the right words); you can ruthlessly edit later. Remember, capturing your thoughts is what’s crucial in this stage.

Editing

Now, you can bring out the grammar Nazi in you. Go back to your piece. Give it a quick read through, and take note of sentences or paragraphs that are off.

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Next, cut sentences, paragraphs, or even chapters that don’t move your story forward. Edit out the fluff by weeding out weak words. Remove immaterial sentences, you and your readers don’t need them. For sentences that deserve to stay, make sure they are dressed up in proper structures. Then add your personality.

At this stage your piece has taken shape.

Proofreading

This is the time to go back and edit for typos or common writing mistakes you might not have noticed while writing your draft.

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Quick tip: Read your article backwards. (Got this tip from a Alicia Rades, a professional blog writer.) Start from the last sentence, then on to the sentence before it. This process will make it easier to spot mistakes because you’re not reading for comprehension.

After this stage, your article is ready for submission. Of course, your editor or client might want some revisions. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, the more you do this and keep doing it, the better writer you’ll become.

So next time you have a writing project and you feel overwhelmed, look at your piece and see which stage you’re at. Then slowly move from one stage to another. You’ll see, you’ll have a polished piece in no time.

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Photo by: Ed Gregory