Once a new year is in full swing, I typically take some time to reevaluate my habits and goals.
- What should I stop doing (aka, What’s not working?)
- What could I optimize?
- What would I like to add to my routine?
You probably see where I’m going with this … you can also seize this time to refine your habits and goals.
And if your content writing sessions ever feel unproductive, I have an eye-opener that will help you approach them with more ease.
Introducing the Necessary Mess
One reason we struggle w/ insecurity: we're comparing our behind the scenes to everyone else's highlight reel.
— stevenfurtick (@stevenfurtick) May 10, 2011
If you’re not an editor, the articles you read online are the final versions of those articles.
That’s obvious, yes, but we often don’t stop to think about all of the versions of a piece of content that existed before it was published.
It might look like it was created with minimal effort.
So, today I want to highlight what goes on in Draft Mode, especially the nonsensical nature of most drafts.
The first version of an article typically just needs to translate an idea into some words.
Here’s a sample of one of mine.
My handwriting is sloppy. There’s no logical order. It’s simply what I needed to start crafting my thoughts … and it eventually led to the post you’re reading right now.
If you look closely at the image above (please don’t), you’ll see that the term “Necessary Mess” was originally “ugly draft.” Ultimately, “Necessary Mess” felt more precise.
Your version of the Necessary Mess might look completely different. It could be a bulleted list or a collection of digital notes. Regardless of the format, embracing it helps relieve some of the tension of getting started on a project.
Check out these four pillars of a Necessary Mess that you can incorporate into your writing practice.
1. Write what’s easy
If you’re trying to achieve the quality of another author’s “highlight reel” when you write your first draft, you’re likely going to be disappointed and frustrated with your “behind the scenes.”
Instead, write what feels easy, even if your ideas aren’t fully formed.
When I’m not quite sure what I want to communicate, writing anything helps me relax.
My go-to tactic for a while has been to type the word “something” over and over again in a digital document. I eventually get tired of looking at the word “something” and what I really want to write about emerges.
I also recommend writing out the lyrics to a song you like or inventing a funny poem. Those tangents that jump-start your process can be powerful parts of your creative journey.
2. Schedule enough time
You can afford to spend time “writing what’s easy” when you don’t have a tight deadline.
If you don’t give yourself enough time to write, you’re going to feel pressure to write the Most Eloquent Words in Your Brain right away.
But prolific writers know that “decent,” “weird,” or “good enough” often precede the “best” versions of their content.
They need the time to explore “decent,” “weird,” and “good enough” in order to arrive at “best.”
3. Accept ridiculous mistakes
This is the “Mess” part of “Necessary Mess.”
- Glaring and not-so-glaring typos
- Awkward phrases
- Improper grammar
- Spelling errors
- Confusing punctuation
Approaching your topic in a thoughtful way almost requires a certain fervor that harbors making mistakes.
So don’t sweat it if you accidentally write something ridiculous like “All beets are off.”
4. Sculpt your art
As I mentioned before, you’re not going to publish the Necessary Mess. It’s a tool that helps you uncover the main point of your article.
After you know exactly what you want to communicate, you remove any confusing parts.
You work through a Necessary Mess until someone else can clearly understand and benefit from it … until it becomes a Nectarous Message.
And as you publish and promote your Nectarous Messages over time, you’ll build an audience of people who want to hear what you have to say.