Writing means different things for different people. Writing for me, is first and foremost a forcing function for clear thinking. When you put words on paper or a screen, you can see connections far better than when they are abstract in your head.
It’s also persuasive. A well laid out written argument is much better than talking about it without any structure.
Writing also gives me superpowers because I feel my memory isn’t that strong. I don’t remember minute details. I would rather write them down for easier recall later.
Since I find talking expends more energy, it’s way more efficient to write and communicate.
It’s also extremely cathartic. It helps me make sense of feelings and thoughts, again bringing clarity. So writing is always beneficial no matter what.
I do most of my writing in the combination of Roam and Notion.
Roam allows me to quickly get my thoughts down on the daily page. Super low friction.
Once I know that I want to write about a topic in greater detail, it goes into Notion.
The Kanban board view in Notion helps visualize the workflow between ideas, drafts, actively writing, and editing.
There is a feeling of satisfaction when I move items from Editing to Published. I write the content on the card itself. So, it combines Project Management workflow with creation. When editing, I move to Google Docs, with a far superior collaborative editing workflow.
Notion also allows you to create reusable template blocks. I will explain the templates’ relevance at each stage of the writing process. These checklists can be collapsed when not required, reducing the space it occupies.
The first step in the writing process is the insight or the need to write on a particular topic. These thoughts come while walking, in the shower, meditating, reading a book, or preparing breakfast. Essentially, any time when the creative mind is allowed to wander.
These thoughts go in either Roam or Notion.
In Roam, it’s under Morning Pages. It is usually written in the morning, but can be used any time during the day. I am still figuring out Roam’s prowess to connect different ideas with each other. That’s a work-in-progress.
In Notion, it goes under an Ideas list, with a few thoughts put down in it. As you can see, the Ideas and Drafts list is very long. I prefer writing on multiple things at the same time.
If I feel something is worth writing on, I move it from Ideas to Drafts. At this step, I want to confirm the assumption that this will be valuable by using a template from Julian’s handbook. It helps you articulate the objective and motivation behind writing this piece.
If I am satisfied enough, I start putting out more thoughts on the topic.
I don’t start with an outline. I usually put out whatever that comes to mind first.
My goal at the time of writing this first draft is to just put forth the ideas in front of me. Write X no. of words, and once you have enough raw material to work with, you can always cut down to the essentials.
At this stage, I don’t think how good, or bad the sentence construction is. But in this process, I’ve come to realize the importance of having an outline for a flow perspective. It doesn’t matter how good your insights are; if the flow is abrupt, then it won't be readable.
So after the first draft is written, I try to create an outline that fits a narrative structure.
The outline defines the ordering and grouping of different ideas together.
The second version of the draft is where the article truly comes to life. If I’m too lazy to write, I use speech to text and just talk aloud to get something written. This also helps the article read like someone is talking to them.
Since Grammarly is not integrated into Notion, I usually end up making a lot of grammatical mistakes at this stage, which is fine. You should first focus on the content and then correct grammar in the Editing process.
Now, this version will be very rough and needs editing to make it crisp.
I find editing tougher than writing the first or second drafts. If I have some help, then I focus on accepting or rejecting the changes proposed.
The key is to remove unnecessary words, phrases, or sentences. Rephrase and simplify the language and read it aloud to make sure it flows well.
The template for this is in Rewriting to focus on overcoming skepticism, intrigue, succinctness, clarity, and write like you talk.
I previously sent it to friends for review, but that adds lag time to publishing. Now I publish first and then try to get feedback on the live article. If you're following a certain cadence, you are afforded this freedom of not having to write the absolute highest quality.
There are checks to be done before publishing. If I am writing a newsletter, I send a test email to myself and check for any missed errors.
Once the article is ready to be published, I publish it on the platform of choice, currently Substack, or this personal website.
The blurbs to be published on Twitter, LinkedIn, Slack or any other platform is also written here.
This workflow gives enough structure to focus the creative energies in the actual content. There is a lot of good advice on writing out there, but if it isn’t persistent and actionable, then it is not that useful. Here’s where a checklist changes things and makes the advice in your face.
It serves its job-to-be-done of improving the quality of the article.