How we keep our pens sharp and our fingers nimble
As PR professionals, we’re not strangers to staring at a blank page and trying to come up with a story to tell. Crafting that perfect sentence or simply moving from one paragraph to the next is often so challenging we want to put down the pen and take up a new profession. It’s a strange paradox, we live for the desire to create something from nothing – to come up with a narrative that has never been told before, and yet often the creamy, white page is the scariest thing in the world. But because of our love of words and our passion for sharing other people’s experiences with the world, we find ways to press on. Over the years, our team has found ways to overcome the dreaded writer’s block and keep punching the keys and putting the ink on the paper.
The Morning Rituals: Stream of Consciousness
We’ve found that the best way to keep up the practice of overcoming writer’s block is to make writing, even off assignment, a daily practice. When we have nothing to write about, we force ourselves to sit down and pour out whatever comes into our heads. A few years ago, we came across Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and it’s changed the way we think about my craft. Julia is a sober alcoholic, and as part of her recovery, she (like many writers) feared she’d never be able to write without a stiff shot of whiskey.
She put herself through a series of exercises to help her overcome that fear, and eventually pulled those lessons together for others in the form of an exercise book. Her book is a 12 week course on unlocking your inner creativity, with an emphasis on two practices: morning pages and weekly creative dates with yourself.
Ever since reading that book, we’ve been obsessed with starting our days with a strong cup of coffee and stream of consciousness writing. Even if there’s nothing to say, trying to get to that place where the thoughts are just pouring out onto the page is a liberating experience. We hardly ever reread what we write, but the mere act of allowing our thoughts to pour out makes it much easier to get down to it when we have an assignment, and we need to do some real writing.
The Tools of The Trade: Writing and Design
As designers and developers, we value being able to see what it is that we are trying to communicate. So on our team we love having visually appealing writing and drawing materials with which to get started on new ideas. The team favorite is definitely a Leuchtturm 1917 blank notebook. Every creative team is different of course, but ours prefer these German gems over say the classic moleskine. They’re a bit wider, again…they’re German, and they have pager numbers with an index that appeal to our inner organizational freak. As for pens, we stick to bics – they’re everywhere and the management can feel a bit better about splurging on fancy notebooks when we keep the costs down on the pens.
Finding Their Voice: Client Recommendations
Let’s face it, most of our clients are not natural writers, but often the spoken word flows for them. It seems that most CEOs we know have a much easier time holding a conversation than putting pen to paper on a creative writing assignment or even jamming out a longer form email response to a set of questions. Over the years we have learned to use that to our advantage and recommend clients record their thoughts, conversations, and musings so we can transcribe them later. It’s usually best to use their phone’s native recorder app. It actually works really well, and then our clients can easily text the recordings to the rest of ourteam if they need to share a quick thought. We frequently ask clients and coworkers if we can record an impromptu conversation we’re having about something interesting so we can go back and write about it later. Since most of our client CEOs and top executives also spend a lot of time traveling by car and plane, it’s a great way for them to capture their thoughts while they’re on the move.
Share your Habits, Tools, and Voice
After years working in industry, the one thing we’ve learned is that we can never learn enough about how others work. By collaborating together, we’ve each tried out one another’s methods to staying sharp and creative, and that gives us the edge we need when telling great stories. If you’ve ever been to see a famous novelist or poet speak, during the Q&A some budding writer in the audience will always ask the tired question: “well how do you write.” Some writers give an elaborate response, others say something witty, like “with a pencil”. At the end of the day what really matters is that we do the work, we tell the stories that demand to be told, and we keep up the practice of staying creative.