A Conscious Approach to the 5 Stages of Writing

December 8, 2014

five-elementsOpinions vary regarding the number of stages involved in the process of writing and range from three to a dozen depending on the way the contents of each stage are distributed.

In Conscious Writing we place a great deal of emphasis on the importance of inner preparation before any outer action is taken so it is no surprise to discover that this is the first of five stages we go through as Conscious Writers:

  1. Preparation
  2. Inspiration
  3. First draft
  4. Refine and revise
  5. Edit and complete

These stages do not necessarily follow a neat linear progression. The initial preparation leads to inspiration and first draft writing although during the early phases of inspiration we may dip regularly back into preparation before a single word meets the page.

The first draft will always require refinement and revision yet this may end up being more of a dance to and fro than a clear cut boundary between one and the other. A great deal depends on the nature of the content, the relationship we have with it, and discovering our optimum way of working.

For our purposes here, exploring each stage in the typical order enables us to appreciate the subtlety and detail of the creative framework as well as the potential contribution a conscious approach can make.

 1. Preparation

yoga-386612_640The premise of Conscious Writing is that our state of consciousness shapes and determines the writing that we do so our first task is to cultivate a conscious approach.

This includes being present, with all aspects of ourselves in alignment – body, emotions, mind and soul – and fully connected to the deepest level of authenticity. From here we immerse ourselves in a deep creative flow which creates the right internal space out of which our writing pours.

This kind of preparation enables us to write from the level of the deep self and the Mystery beyond to bypass the fears and anxieties of the everyday self. We also need to address two questions:

(i) Why?

Knowing why we want to write is a key component of our vision of authorship. It serves to create a clear intention at every level which supports us to prioritize our actions, stay on track when challenges arise, and make appropriate decisions along the way.

Clarifying your “why?” involves diving deeply in to your motivation, objectives and the outcome you are aiming for by writing your book and the other materials you are here to write.

  • Before taking action on the following suggestions, spend 5 to 10 minutes observing the flow of your breath to bring yourself to a point of inner and outer stillness.
  • Now reflect on and write about the “why?” of your authorship.

QuestionMark(ii) Who?

The second question to address during the Preparation stage is who we are writing for. As Conscious Writers we work from the inside out and always begin by following the promptings of our heart and soul. If we are aiming for publication, we also need to add our audience into the mix at an early stage.

The chances of publishing success are greatly enhanced when the stories we are passionate about sharing resonate closely with the interests of readers. Reflecting on our readership enables us to take their requirements into account as we craft the way our words express our ideas.

  • Ask yourself, who do I want to serve with my ideas, insights and stories? Write your reflections down.
2. Inspiration

Traditional views of the writing process usually start here and focus on a mix of brainstorming and planning. In Conscious Writing we call this stage “Inspiration” to remind us that we are involved in so much more than an intellectual exercise.

This stage includes deciding on our topic, developing it, and determining our approach to implementing it on the page. We may also use reading and research to supplement and support our own ideas.

fractalHere we answer the next most important question – what are we going to write about? As we do so, we need to ensure we release what we think we should write and set ourselves free to write what truly makes our heart sing.

  • Settle into stillness and ask for insight to shed light on what subject and approach ignites your creative fire.
  • Use free writing to work your way towards a point where a decision feels right and creates a flutter of excitement in you.
3. First Draft

First draft Conscious Writing is like downloading content with the emphasis on writing freely without censorship. We balance the focus and intentions we have set with the flow of pouring words onto the page, and dive in to writing which develops the detail and shapes our ideas as they unfold.

Perfection has no place here because it is all still work in progress. As we embrace the chaos that is a natural part of the process, we learn to trust that it will come together if we stay on track and keep showing up.

A rough first draft includes all of our main ideas and the components we want our book to have – imagery, metaphors, stories, examples, instructions and more. However, the details are not yet refined or in their final form.

SONY DSCThe main advice given to writers at this stage is not to edit at the same time as drafting which works well for most writers, most of the time. However, as Conscious Writers we are always free to break the rules if it suits our purpose and works for us!

  • Follow your breath into silence and listen to the still small voice within. Write your first draft freely, and repeat regularly until completion.    
4. Refine and Revise

“All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary—it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.” Somerset Maugham sums up the refining and revising stage with this simple statement in which a multitude of complex layers are camouflaged.

Whether we have written our first draft straight through to completion or refined some of our writing along the way, at this point we undertake a full review of every aspect of our work so far.

A fresh perspective is an absolute requirement for refining and revising so we need to take a break and return to the page with clarity of vision as well as our intuitive and feeling senses sharpened.

redpencilPrinting out what we’ve written also makes a significant contribution to this stage of the process as it immediately provides a different view for us to focus on the eloquence and accuracy of our expression. With a red pen at the ready, our creative reworking can begin.

  • Review your content and language to check that you are on track with your purpose, have been consistent, avoided repetition, and created a clear and congruent flow from start to finish.
  • Have the courage to delete whatever isn’t required to express your essential impulse vividly so it truly reaches the hearts and minds of your readers.
5. Edit and Complete

The final phase of the writing process involves a line by line, detailed review to correct any remaining errors and inconsistencies. Editing is essentially about effective communication and is the last stage of improvement made to our writing before publication.

There are usually two stages of editing. The first is our own precise review to address how we’ve expressed ourselves through our choice of language. We also need to focus on the accuracy of spelling, grammar and punctuation as part of this concluding assessment of clarity and style.

editing_croppedIf we are writing a book for publication, the second edit will be done by a professional once we have polished our work to the extent of our capabilities.

Whether we are publishing the book ourselves or working with a traditional publisher, professional editing is indispensable and ranges from major re-working to minor fine-tuning depending on how far we have developed the work ourselves.

Good editors should not change the sense of what we have written; instead their role is to facilitate the process of telling our stories and sharing our message skillfully with our readers.

Editors don’t always get it right but they usually bring a fresh, experienced eye to writing and inevitably pick up details that we miss.

Naturally, the more complete our writing is before it goes to a professional, the less they will have to do and the more it will reflect our original intentions through our individual interpretation of content and language.

  • Create space in your mind through spending some time focusing on the space which already exists between your thoughts.
  • From this internal spaciousness, edit the detail of your writing until you feel done.
  • Finally, return to stillness once more to let your work settle within you before you resume other activities.
Q4U: What is your experience of the different stages of writing? Share your process with your fellow Conscious Writers in the comments below.

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© Julia McCutchen 2014. All Rights Reserved.

If you want to use this article in your newsletter or on your website I’d be happy for you to do so as long as you use the complete article, including the copyright line, and include the following paragraph in its entirety:

Julia McCutchen is an author, conscious writing coach, intuitive mentor, and the founder & creative director of the International Association of Conscious & Creative Writers (IACCW). A former publisher of books on spiritual and personal development, Julia teaches a holistic approach to writing for publication that combines the inner journey of self-realisation (conscious) with the practical steps required for authentic self-expression (creativity). She is the author of The Writer’s Journey: From Inspiration to Publication, and her new book Conscious Writing: How to Write from the Heart with the Voice of Your Soul (September 2015). ForFREE Membership and resources for writers, visit www.iaccw.com.

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