#3: The Ten-Minute Standing-Up Draft Activity

I propose a method of blogging that not necessarily guarantees that your posts will be good, but that you can make a post all the time: the ten-minute standing-up draft.

I mean the standing-up part literally, that is, making a blog post draft while standing up. You can try doing it in your own home and ten minutes later, assuming that you have ideas in your head, a draft will be cooked, steamy, straight from the boiler. This approach has been effective in brainstorming ideas. In Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Switch, they recall a sort of meeting that requires that its participants stand up. Here is a statement from General Pagonies, the featured general, about the uses and benefits of that meeting:

Early on, I discovered that making people stand up keeps the ball moving at a quicker pace. People speak their piece and then quickly yield the floor to the next person. On the rare occasion that someone starts to get long-winded or wax philosophic….people shift from foot to foot, fidget, look at their watches….

Now it is obvious why some blog posts are better made while you stand up. It makes sure that your mind is working at full blast. You won’t have the luxury of a comfortable chair (or worse, an ivory tower to make you “wax philosophic”; you will sense the urgency that the mere act of standing up gives you.

Perhaps that why comedy is best made standing up, rather than sitting down; when you’re up, you have to give it all or not, you either succeed or not, and you don’t have time to ruminate on the consequences. But when you’re sitting down, you have time and the inclination to over-analyze; time should have been better used on spilling your jokes rather than on thinking about whether your people will laugh or not.

Paul Graham wrote: “An essay is something you write to try to figure something out. Figure out what? You don’t know yet.” There are words that will inevitably emerge from your mind if you can see some words already. So put some words in place. You may never know what your point is until you have written something down that approximates that point. Stand up and write something like: “A tree and a fly and a live wire….” While standing up, you’ll feel the pressure to write anything, which is a better thing than the opposite condition. In ten minutes, you’ll have a draft about a tree and a fly and a live wire, plus some more oddball characters and some more vividness to boot.

I’m not suggesting that all of my posts will turn out the ten-minute way; only my drafts. I’d still write for protracted periods of time if I feel like it. I’d still write sitting down or lying down. But the ten-minute standing-up routine can work wonders. It stops procrastination. It pushes me onto the racetrack. It leaves me with not many options other than running forward. And with words on paper I can grow more words, so if I feel that I can go on beyond ten minutes, then that’s fine too. If not then I can always put my draft away for future use, but it’s likely that it serves as a springboard to another idea you may want to write about.

I’m also not suggesting that you cook up a stew of a post for ten minutes and then deliver it to your blog while steaming. Such a write-up should still undergo the scrutiny of revision, for you to find out whether your posts are too rushed or not and also to find ways to smoothen the rough edges. The ten-minute stand-up draft routine just ensures that you are writing something rather than not writing something; the revisions ensure that you will write something well rather than write something bad. (And revisions may take more than an hour to finish; it may even take days.) Remember, the medium involved is not the human voice, but the text, and some flaws forgivable while speaking may look awkward in written form.

The art of blogging – and writing, ultimately – is an art about not wasting someone else’s time, including the writer’s. Given the prevalence of busted blogs in the Internet and bad books, standing up while writing and giving yourself ten minutes for the task is worth giving a try. Just improve your post later on. Meanwhile, write on.

P.S. My first three posts are about blogging. Perhaps I should write about something else the next time.

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