Tag Archives: creative process

Eight Benefits of Banking Blog Posts

piggy bankI’d like to let you in on a little behind-the-scenes secret. Since the summer of 2017, to stay on top of my blog’s weekly posting schedule, I have been maintaining a “bank” of completed blog posts.

The original intent was to have enough blog posts stored up for the summer to enable me to pursue another creative opportunity without having to step away from the blog and risk losing momentum or followers.

For more information on how I was able to accomplish this, check out my post: “My New Blogging Strategy: Banking Blog Posts.”

When the summer was over, with the satisfaction of having spread my wings creatively while still keeping the blog active, I appreciated how it improved my relationship with time and with my creativity.

Over time, the benefits of this practice started adding up:

1. Benefit: Ongoing adherence to my blog schedule
One would think that producing one quality story for the blog every week is pretty easy. For the most part, I think it is, but there are weeks when life presents other unexpected priorities.

Similarly, there are some weeks when inspiration is not at its peak. Haven’t we all been there at one time or another?

When that happens, instead of skipping a week, or posting at a different day or time, having a stock of material (completed ahead of time) allows me to continue posting new content each week at the same time.

2. Benefit: Better focus
Weeks when inspiration and free time are in abundance, the goal of developing a stock of extra stories provides a great outlet to channel any excess creative energy.

3. Benefit: Better quality
During a week when inspiration might not be at its best, having extra blog posts means I don’t have to force myself to produce a post when the words don’t come easily, and potentially, for it to not be my best work.

Also, by having a number of stories sitting at the finish line (sometimes for a few weeks at a time), it allows significantly more time to go back and review posts with a fresh pair of eyes.

By stepping away from a finalized post, I am better able to return and catch editorial details that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks for a post that was published soon after completion. It surprises me how I can still catch little things several weeks after a post was considered completed.

4. Benefit: Better adherence to my mission
Stepping away from a completed story and returning with a fresh pair of eyes also allows me to run the material through many personal filters, ensuring the post is consistent with the overall direction of the blog: light, fun, uplifting and kind.

Given the state of the world, news cycles can be pretty gloomy, day after day. The opportunity to reviews posts a few more times helps me to ensure that the negative energy of current events didn’t accidentally spill over into my content.

5. Benefit: “Oops! I forgot something”
In the early years of the blog, how many times have I published a post, only to be struck by an “aha!” moment a few minutes later? Having a post in queue for publishing allows the creativity to keep simmering on the back burner. If perfect wording only hits me later, the opportunity to adjust is still there. Conversely, I have also gone back and removed wording that didn’t sit well with me days or weeks later.

6. Benefit: Confidence
What surprised me was that after more significant “post-production” work has taken place, a sense of confidence sets in. When my blogging process has allowed for benefits #1 to #5 to take place, and I get to a point where I am no longer tweaking a given post, I can move on to other material and to truly feel in the moment when working on it.

7. Benefit: Spending more time on more challenging posts
When I know that the coming week’s blog post is taken care of, it allows me to clear my mind and not worry about the week’s deadline. With that clarity, I can truly give a more challenging post the time it needs, whether in the form of research or intense literary engineering, to keep working at it until it strikes the right chord.

8. Benefit: Opportunity to reject, revisit and rework
Similarly, a solid bank of blog posts also provides me with the freedom to take a draft that I am struggling with and to potentially return it to the “ideas” folder when it just isn’t coming together organically. I am convinced that inspiration will strike when I least expect it.

In retrospect, there was nothing wrong with the way I started my blogging process. Producing a blog post every week, for publication that same week, was a beneficial discipline building exercise in itself. It also helped me in learning how not to overthink a post and when to move on to the next one. However, it was not without its pressure cooker moments.

Over time I realized that working on the blog is not always a linear process of writing a post from beginning to end.

When I have an idea for a post, I never really know how long it will take to get from an idea to first draft to final. To give an idea its full due diligence can sometimes take longer than a week.

Also, the creative spirit has its own ebb and flow. Some weeks, I feel very inspired and can produce several first drafts. Other weeks, my frame of mind might lend itself better to editing those drafts and moving a story (or two) (or three) across the finish line.

By having several posts in queue, ready for publishing, I find myself feeling less pressure about deadlines and can truly focus on the craft of writing.

The bottom line is that when I know that my weekly post is polished and ready, whether I am more inspired to develop new ideas or to finalize posts that have been drafted, I have the peace of mind to go with the flow, creatively speaking, and to confidently produce my best work.

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, your likes and shares are most appreciated.
If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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The Roving Writer

As much as I try to make my home a comfortable, quiet place to devote myself to the craft of writing, there are times when things fall out of the span of my control.

Whether it is a symphony of leaf blowers, a neighbour’s dog barking for hours, another neighbour’s ailing muffler, a charming visitor to the neighbourhood who needs to turn the car alarm on and off seven times, or the apparent decision to suddenly reroute all air traffic directly above my house, auditory distractions are a fact of life.

Then add to the mix an extroverted attention-seeking cat, a ringing home phone, an empty coffee cup, a ringing doorbell, a load of laundry ready for drying, and the ding to indicate that my gluten-free banana bread is ready to come out of the oven.

When I reach into my desk drawer for a USB stick, I find a pair of old glasses that needs to be donated, I spot the case for the iPhone I carried in 2009 (that won’t fit anything today) and before I know it, I am in spring cleaning mode.

As I head back to my desk, I notice the wall I have been meaning to spackle in preparation for painting.

Moments later, I remember that the litter box needs “refreshing”.

When I finally return to my blog post, I write a few words and then take a moment to stare off into the distance between paragraphs. My mind drifts and I ask myself, “when was the last time I dusted that shelf?”

When I look in the other direction, I see Ivy the Wonder Cat’s favourite blanket and think to myself that it is probably due for a thorough washing.

At this rate, it’s a wonder that I succeed in publishing a weekly blog post. Continue reading

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How Old Blog Posts Can be Like Old Home Movies

This fall, I celebrated my fifth year as a blogger with great joy (… and surprise) at having achieved this milestone.

From the beginning, I always thought of the blog as my rehearsal space to sharpen my creative writing skills, as I began the transition from full-time career #1 to full-time creative writer. The fact that many of you have joined me in that journey and encouraged me along the way has been incredibly heartwarming and a source of boundless gratitude. Thank you everyone!

I admit that some weeks it was incredibly difficult to find the time or inspiration (or both) to produce some fresh content, as well as to stay on top of my social media presence to get the word out there. But with only a few weeks off here and there, I managed to keep at it and to not give up. For that, I am incredibly proud!

When time has been in short supply, I had to focus my efforts on moving the blog forward, and not looking back. Then weeks turned into months, and months turned into years, and BOOM! Five years went by and I suddenly had a repertoire of almost 300 blog posts. How did that happen?

And that is where the fun began. When time finally permitted, I went back and read some posts from my first year. Continue reading

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When Art Takes Years to Complete

About 15 years ago, I was visiting the National Gallery of Canada, taking in the beauty of the permanent collection of artwork. As I was admiring the masterpieces, I was also examining the little cards next to them, taking note of the names of artists, the names of the artwork, the year the work was created and the backstory behind the masterpiece.

I noticed that some works did not have a single year next to them, but instead, a range of years like “1950-1952” was indicated, and I wondered to myself why would that be. For years after that, I kept wondering why it could take months or years to complete a work of art from beginning to end.

That was until I started blogging… then I completely got it!

In a perfect world, I could sit at my desk, write a blog post from beginning to end, proofread it and post it. In theory, it is a pretty simple process. But in reality, for me, that particular scenario might happen in 1 out of every 20 posts.

For the other 19, it is a process that takes time.

In the same way that visual artists need to sketch, that actors need to rehearse and that musicians need to jam, writers also require time to experiment with ideas to see what works. Continue reading

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My Lifelong Envy of Artists and Their Sketch Pads

Regular readers of my blog might remember a couple of posts in which I talk about how other artists inspire me as a writer, even when their works of art come from other creative disciplines.

Musicians who can pick up an instrument, anytime, anywhere, and start playing beautiful music are mind-blowing to me. I am also in awe of singers who can not only carry a tune, but bring such depth and complexity to a song by smartly using their “instrument”. It is also a joy to behold when an actor can take a script and breathe such life into a role that I am able to completely suspend judgement and believe in a fictional character.

I especially envy visual artists who can take a pencil and a sheet of paper and produce picture-perfect images worthy of a gallery showing.

In high school, while certain teachers droned on in that Charlie Brown teacher’s voice, I remember looking over at my artist friends during class, pencils blazing over whatever piece of paper (or flat surface) was at their disposal. Blank pages were magically transformed into masterpieces with images of eyes, faces or pets from different angles, and all from the perspective of their mind’s eye.

There was seemingly no struggle to their process. They did not stare at a blank page, think hard about it, draw, erase, draw, erase and start over. It just seemed to flow out of them like they were on auto-pilot. They made it look effortless. Continue reading

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The Struggle to Pick a Format for a Story Idea

Last year, I was most fortunate in having enough blog content ready to post, that I could afford myself a little time to pursue other creative writing opportunities. There have been several ideas for fictional stories swirling around in my head lately, and committing them to paper (before I forget them) was becoming increasingly important as plot twists and defining moments in conversation were routinely popping into my head.

What seems to be a continuing trend, whether writing for my blog or for a fictional piece, is that I don’t seem to have a linear process of writing a story from beginning to end. It starts with glimmers of ideas that spawn other ideas that, over time, can be organized into an outline which then leads to the development of the background and context to connect those ideas.

It’s not pretty and makes writing a bit of a puzzle, but if directors can shoot movies out of sequence, why can’t a writer write out of sequence. In the end, the process of reassembling and organizing the sections can be just as much fun. Thankfully, technology makes that part so much easier.

However, for my fictional material, a new struggle emerged. As much as my little writer’s voice has been very enthusiastic about spreading its wings and committing creative material to paper, it has also been subject to some analysis paralysis.

The question that keeps coming up: What is this story? Is it a novel? Is it a short story? Is it a play? Is it a screenplay? Is it a movie? Is it a series?

I can’t tell you how many times this question rambles in the back of my mind when I am stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Continue reading

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How Creating a Character’s Family Tree is Like Sudoku

It’s midnight and I’m not sure whether it’s every writer’s dream or every writer’s nightmare, but the little writer’s voice is babbling details about the family tree for the characters in my screenplay.

On one hand, I am a little annoyed because it is a “school night” and I have a busy work day planned for tomorrow. On the other hand, with the heartbreak of writer’s block going on around the world, I really can’t complain when my own writer’s voice is in overdrive with ideas.

I grab a pen and a pad (tucked neatly in my nightstand for just such a literary emergency) and I start sketching out the ideas as they come to me.

Given that this is my first screenplay, this is all new to me, but if it’s anything like my process for writing blog posts, this probably won’t be a linear process from start to end.

The main characters start identifying themselves to me. Then, the main sources of tension between the characters form a neatly bulleted list. The resulting struggles are identified and even the desired end result becomes crystal clear to me.

Now… how do we get from “once upon a time” to “and they lived happily ever after”, while hitting all those marks along the way? Continue reading

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How Index Cards Became My New Writing Tool

Throughout life, I have often considered myself a late bloomer, but never more so than now in discovering the joy of index cards. Yes, index cards!

With the little writer’s voice in my head constantly pitching ideas to me, the challenge has always been to find the means to capture those ideas IMMEDIATELY.

I can usually juggle a handful of random ideas for about half an hour until I can get to a screen or a piece of paper to jot them down. But beyond that, I run the same risk as the cartoon dog from the movie “Up!” because the moment I’m distracted by a “Squirrel!” the idea could be gone forever.

Sometimes an idea might just fizzle out on its own, or sometimes it might grow into a mighty oak in the form of a blog post, a screenplay or even a novel, but the key is to capture that idea in order to see what comes of it.

To do that, I do my best to capture them all. Figuring out the best vehicle to capture the ideas has been the tricky part. Continue reading

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My New Blogging Strategy: Banking Blog Posts

In 2015, I wrote about a weird phenomenon that was happening within my blogging processes. No sooner than I would start outlining and building a blog post, the little writer’s voice within would pitch another idea at me, and I would start working on that one.

Having a run of good ideas is certainly not a bad problem to have. I definitely counted my blessings in that regard. But in its wake, I was being left with a series of incomplete posts, a phenomenon I called The Graveyard of Blog Posts.

As summer began, I was itching to get to work on another creative writing project and wondered how I could keep the blog going for a couple of months while giving my writer’s voice a fresh challenge.

As I was browsing through my drafts folder, the list of posts that were waiting to be finalized had recently grown some more and was looking pretty impressive. I knew that some of them were just waiting for a final conclusion to nail the point I was trying to make or some “icing on the cake” wording to make it pretty.

The point is, I had several that were almost ready to be posted and patiently waiting in the wings.

Maybe that was my answer!

I made it my goal to try to finalize 8 or 9 posts over two weeks, which should give me enough completed weekly posts to put the blog on autopilot with fresh content until Labour Day, and a couple of months to let my mind wander in another creative direction. Continue reading

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Ten Ways I Would Explain the Feelings of Creativity

creativityHow would you explain the sensations and feelings of creativity? Here are some points of reference I would suggest:

1. When I was a kid, my parents had a multi-band radio that, in addition to AM and FM, it had “short wave” and “marine band”. I fondly remember hours spent slowly turning the tuner knob with the attention to detail of a safe cracker, listening to what distant channels I could get on a clear day when there was little interference. When I am feeling at my most creative and my instincts seem to be at their sharpest, it is like tuning in to a station and discovering a channel transmitting from hundreds of miles away and picking up a very clear signal.

2. When I am creating art and the elements of the project start coming together, for me, it’s like the rush I used to get in school, when I would be writing an exam and somehow knew all the answers off the top of my head. It is a sense of being on auto-pilot, when the words are coming but you aren’t quite sure where they are coming from, but it feels right nonetheless.

3. When trying to fall asleep and the little creative voice keep pitching ideas at me, feelings come over me ranging from frustration and irritation that the little voice won’t go to sleep, but also excitement and delight when I am able to get the ideas all transcribed and saved preciously for another day.

4. Time stands still and time flies by… at the same time. Continue reading

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