Finding the Heart of Your Message or Story

Friday 28 July 2017 - Posted by Julia McCutchen

“What I’m struggling with at the moment is a balance between shaping the writing to get to the heart of what I want to say versus over-editing. Do I sit with a piece longer or get the blog posts out sooner to get into the flow and get to all the other stories I long to tell?”

Great question!

Shaping your writing and sitting with a piece are valid strategies for clarifying the essence of your message or story, and both are required to one degree or another for writing that’s going to be shared with others.

The approach you take depends on a few key factors:

  • The relationship you have with the content: is it brand new to you or a fresh angle on ideas you’ve already shared?
  • What you’re writing and the purpose it’s intended to serve: is it a blog post, a section of your book, a business communication or something else entirely?
  • How you work best as a creative writer: if you’re not sure, experiment with different approaches to find out.
  • Whether you’re working to a deadline: if so, you’ll need to plan and schedule enough time for each stage of the process.
  • The choice you make about how much time you want to spend: if you don’t have an “official” deadline, you may well choose to set one for yourself.

Write Your Way to Clarity

A classic approach to discovering the essence of your message is to write your way to clarity by continuing to write on and around your subject until you find your way in to its core.

It’s a bit like walking a labyrinth in to the centre.

It usually means you’ll write more than you need for the final version. However, once you’ve felt the unmistakable sense of “yes, that’s it!” you can use that feeling to guide you through the editing process.

Alternatively, you may decide to discard the writing you’ve done so far and start afresh in the knowledge that it has served as a valuable stepping stone to a new beginning that’s aligned with your true purpose.

Mind Map Your Message

An alternative approach that I use for most of my writing (including this blog post) is to do a mind map to download my ideas and find the heart of my message before I write the first draft.*

As I’m committed to Conscious Writing, I begin the day with a movement and meditation practice, and directly after breakfast I write before anything else.

This enables me to remain in the space beyond the limitations of my ordinary mind which I draw on for doing the mind map that will guide the writing I do.

As a result, my first draft is inspired by a reasonable degree of clarity about the heart of my message.

Of course the writing process invariably develops those initial ideas and sometimes leads me in completely new directions.

Yet the essence of what I want to share usually remains true to the mind map download so there’s less shaping required before the final edit and a natural balance between the two.

Avoid Over-thinking

Over-editing comes from over-thinking so as soon as you notice that happening, stop and take a break.

Go for a walk and deepen your breathing to reconnect with your body, listen to some music or read something inspiring to refill your inner well, and/or do the Conscious Writing Process (or the Mudra Sequence at least) to bring yourself back into alignment and balance.**

Once you’ve refreshed your perspective, try doing a mind map to sharpen your focus on what you truly want to share before returning to edit your words on the page.

Finding Your Rhythm

I’m a great believer in the value of having a regular writing rhythm.

I know from personal and professional experience the difference it makes to find a creative rhythm that works for you and supports you to find the dynamic vitality of creative flow.

Whilst it’s essential to separate first draft writing from editing, taking too long to complete a piece can be a mistake as the vibrancy is likely to dissipate and you stand to lose more than you gain.

In Short

To summarize my response to the question asked, I suggest that you:

  • experiment with finding the heart of what you want to say before you write your first draft to avoid the struggle between shaping and editing,
  • and by all means take some time to review your writing with fresh eyes, but let go of the need for perfection and keep the momentum going to completion (and beyond!).

When you’re consciously aligned with creative flow, there will always more ideas and stories to share, so keep it moving and enjoy the journey 🙂

*******

With thanks to Yvon for asking this question on my Facebook Author page. If you have a question you’d like to ask for me to respond to here on the blog, you can do so here.

What’s your preferred approach to finding the heart of your message or story? How has mind mapping contributed to your creative process? Please make a comment below.

Further Resources

* There’s a great deal of free information available on doing mind maps. I suggest you keep it simple and if you’d like to read more about my approach to mind maps, see page 94 of my book Conscious Writing.

** The audio CD of my guided version is called Conscious Writing – the Process and is available here.

8 Comments

  • Thank you so much for this beautiful response to my question. Both ideas sound like great tools and I look forward to experimenting with them to see what works for me.

    You have inspired me to get moving again and I’m confident these techniques will help me get to the heart of what I long to share.

    • You’re most welcome Yvon. I’m so pleased to know that my response has inspired you to experiment with these techniques to find the right way forwards for you. Do let me know how you get on and I’ll look forward to reading some of your posts sometime soon!

    • Thanks for your comment Guylaine. Yes indeed, these tools can be applied to any creative art as well as to personal and business communications of all kinds!

    • Glad it’s been useful for you Ann. Keep exploring and experimenting with mind mapping as it’s useful for so many different stages of the creative process, writing and all aspects of authorship!

  • Julia,
    Mind mapping is a concept new to me. Perhaps you’ve spoken of it before. Could you possibly say something more about it? Again, thank you for your insightful sharing.

    • Hi Helen – in summary, a mind map is a technique that’s used for generating (I feel it’s like “downloading”) and capturing ideas in a non-linear way. The inventor of mind mapping (Tony Buzan) might not describe it exactly like that but that’s my experience of using it creatively.

      You take a sheet of A4 paper and turn it sideways (landscape). Write a key word or phrase summarizing the idea(s) you want to explore in the middle and then draw lines branching out from the centre and write down ideas that are related to your central idea in order to develop that idea.

      I hope this brief description intrigues you enough to google “mind maps” so you can read more detail and look at images of mind maps other people have done which will help with your understanding. Enjoy!

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