I’ve been thinking about this moment for a week. The moment I finally sit down and words begin to appear on the canvas in front of me. Few things are more intimidating to a writer than looking at a blank page.
That’s why every time you sit down and start typing, crafting your words, weaving sentences, and bringing your thoughts into the world, you win. It’s a victory over nothingness and a triumph over procrastination. But it wasn’t procrastination that caused me to postpone this moment for so long. It was rumination.
What is rumination?
Rumination is just a fancy way of saying “deep thought”. The concept is in no way complicated in and of itself. And once you apply it to writing, you get some fascinating results.
It’s interesting how we never know what another person is thinking. You see a dude, walking around the gym, resting in-between sets, music blasting through his bluetooth earphones (heavy metal, probably). On the surface it seems as if he’s staring into nothingness. But what he’s actually doing is thinking about rumination.
He’s smithing the words with his metaphorical hammer. Crafting the subheadings, planning the structure, placing all the puzzle pieces on the table and putting the picture together. Thinking about “deep thinking” is about as meta as you can go. All the while being at the gym, or shopping, or going for a walk.
Letting the topic marinate into the neurotransmitters of my brain has become a cornerstone of my writing process. Doing research, talking to experts – all of this takes a lot of time but the end is damn fine work, whether it’s an article or website copy.
How does rumination help you become a better writer?
To the uninitiated, the difficult part about writing seems to be coming up with the right words. The process of typing, itself. But it’s not. The difficult part is having something worthwhile to say.
Before you can write something people want to read, you need to have a message worth sharing. That’s why I usually ponder my topics for days, sometimes weeks before I’m ready to sit down and lay them out on the white space of my writing app.
Once I land my ass on the uncomfortable chair I’ve gotten so used to, I wouldn’t even dream of replacing anytime soon (so what if it’s hurting my lower back?), the article starts writing itself. My fingers slide over the keyboard like an Olympic figure skating team, while my eyes simply watch the words pop into existence. My brain is nothing but a proud coach at this point, observing his team in action. When all the thinking and preparation have been done beforehand, writing is the easy part.
Get a home-cooked meal, not a burger.
Many of my clients contact me under the impression they’re paying me to write. This may have been true when I was starting out. I didn’t know much about business back then, even though I was a decent writer. Someone would come to me and ask, “How much do you charge per word?” And I’d give them an answer, then we’d shake hands, they’d give me a topic and I’d write an article around it.
Back in those days, my idea of a quality article was a well-written article. But this is no longer the case. Now I know a quality article has a purpose. It generates an outcome. It’s a part of a bigger picture and solves a business problem. Hence, to make that happen, you need to think about it. Deeply. So these days I get paid to think more so than to write.
The difference between what I was doing in the past and what I do now is like the difference between a burger and a three-course, home-cooked meal.
Sure, a burger can do the trick. It can satiate your hunger and silence the irksome stomach growl. We all know what a burger is – a fat, greasy piece of meat (?), claustrophobically trapped between the carcass of a sesame-covered bun, mercilessly cut in half, with a few more ingredients added to make it look less savage. It’s a quick, cheap meal and it’s easy to consume. It’s just begging you to put it out of its misery.
A burger requires no preparation. You just drag yourself to the fast-food joint, order it, and it comes out, ready to add some more adipose tissue around your waist area. But don’t worry, you’ll forget about it after your third trip to the toilet.
Fast food doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care if you’re wearing a three-piece suit or sweatpants. Whether you’re hammered at 4 am or fresh as a cucumber during your Monday lunch break at the drive-through. It’s always there, and the outcome is always the same.
If your business is on a burger diet, you’re not doing yourself a favor. Do you seriously want to feed your customers fast food? That’s not a good way to build a sustainable business (unless you’re running a fast food joint, in which case – good job).
What you want to do instead is invite your customers to a nice, home-cooked meal. Something prepared especially for them with all the attention and care they deserve. A meal made with fresh ingredients. Savory and mouthwatering. Just like grandma used to make.
Meals like this require planning and preparation. You need to go shopping. Get fresh ingredients. You need herbs and spices. It takes time and care to cook it just right. But the end result is a gustatory party for their palate. It’s both delicious and nutritious.
Make consuming your content a delight. A special occasion. Treat your customers with respect and they will help your business grow. You can grow your business with burgers, too, but is that the right kind of growth?
Rumination makes the difference between fast food and home-cooked meals when applied to writing. Some writers prefer to flip burgers instead of bothering with home-cooked meals, and that’s fine. Some clients prefer burgers, too. But at least know the difference.
If you want a burger from me, you will get the same process of home-cooked preparation. It’s going to be a damn good burger but it won’t be at the price of a McDonald’s. So order a home-cooked meal, instead.
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Till next time.