Did that title make you cringe just a little bit?
You know, the writer that missed an obvious spelling error?
Well, I did that on purpose.
Because spelling the word rong is part of a powerful writing concept I learned a few years ago.
The lack of this is the reason so many writers struggle to lay the words down on a page.
It’s the reason why one writer can pound something out in 30 minutes while the other one spends a day laboring over a couple of paragraphs. And they will likely hate those paragraphs tomorrow anyway.
Know what I mean?
I’m using this concept right now, and I bet you can’t even tell.
This approach is much better than the alternative, the taunting of the blank page.
I don’t know if you write yourself or work with writers, but eventually, somebody uses the term writer’s block. I’d argue that what’s happening is someone trying to be, well, perfect.
Imagine you’re sitting in front of the computer with the cursor blinking on a white page.
At first, it’s just doing what it always does, showing you where you are.
Then after a while, it starts to taunt you.
The keys start to seem like they’re hot coals. Why else would you not touch them? Sticky maybe?
Then when you finally get started, it’s like a bad cab ride. Go! Stop! Go! Stop!
As you type, you’re going back to correct mistakes.
You hate that line, so you go back and fix that one.
There’s a spelling mistake there. Want a different word here. This doesn’t sound right over here.
What was that date again? Let me check my notes.
Two hours later, you have a paragraph. You’re exhausted. And you still think the paragraph sucks.
If you did this at the gym, you’d injure yourself.
Overthinking will hurt your writing and your weight training
If you’ve ever spent time in the gym, you may have had a coach help you with an exercise.
The process is usually to talk about the movement. Maybe get a demonstration. Then you try it yourself with little or no weight and practice.
After you get the movement down, you start adding weight.
As you get stronger, you add more weight, and this is where the technique starts to become the difference between success and injury.
But as the weight starts to go up, another thing can happen. You might start thinking more about the movement instead of doing it.
Take the power clean, for example. You pull the bar from the floor, then push it down as you hop underneath it. It’s a complex movement. Most of the time, you start with a broomstick if you have little experience in the weight room. As you get the movement down, then you add the weight.
But as soon as you start thinking about the movement, things can go sideways. You might miss the lift. Or you clip your knees. The harder you think about it, the worse the lift seems to go.
That’s a bit like your writing.
Speaking of thinking, my pal Brian, the espresso master came to mind.
Rong works for award winning espresso too
One afternoon I was over at the coffee roasting facility, and as I walked past Brian, he told me he had a dream the night before.
He said he woke up in the middle of the night with a vision of all these coffee beans floating around.
It was a blend of twenty different single origins. And one by one, the different beans revealed themselves, and the different percentages came to life.
So he got up and wrote it down.
A few days later, he got to work in his lab upstairs. He tested the various beans and percentages. He roasted each one and started constructing the taste.
There is a lot of knowledge and study that goes into putting beans together. Some don’t taste very good when combined with others. Some beans will add a lot of flavor or body, acidity or aroma in the right percentage but can make the taste unbalanced in the wrong percentages.
But you will never know until you try them.
So after years of R and D, tasting and execution, he dreamed up a blend.
The first thing he did was write it down. He didn’t know what it would be like. He didn’t go back and forth on the initial idea.
He put it down in words and converted those words to a combination of single origins.
It required a lot of testing and experimentation to balance and perfect—lots of editing.
But when it was done, it went to Italy and won a gold medal at the most prestigious tasting competition in the country.
A physicist tells us a writing secret
So what is right about being rong?
Well, I heard this idea after reading an amazing book called Loonshots.
Loonshots is story after story built around a concept called phase transition, the place between where water becomes ice. The book flows beautifully.
It turns out that the author, Safi Bahcall, is a physicist that would spend hours in a bar studying two books. One by Nabokov and the other by an American author.
So when I heard he was on a podcast with Tim Ferris, I had to hear more.
At one point during the podcast, he described his writing process.
The first part was naturally a ton of research.
Then he’d do an outline. The outline was filled in with the things from his research. And only then he started writing.
When he started describing his writing process, he used three letters.
They were F, B, and R.
These stand for fast, bad, and rong.
He said to write and write fast. Hammer out the idea. Do not correct anything.
Do not go back and correct that sentence.
Forget about those spelling mistakes.
Avoid heading over to the internet to check something or refer to your notes to get a date or a name you forgot.
Leave it all there, especially the “rong” stuff.
And that was an epiphany.
Write better by doing it rong first
You don’t have writer’s block.
You have editor’s mind.
These are two different states.
Your internal creator wants to throw the ideas out there and connect them in some way. You’ve already done the thinking. You’ve already done the research and probably some kind of outline.
Now it’s time to get it down on paper or screen.
Let the words flow. Let the mistakes be there.
And leave your editor to the end.
If you let your editor dominate, you’ll never get anything done.
He or she will be nitpicking every word.
That internal critic will use up all your creative energy while dampening your progress.
The ideas will be waiting for an outlet but will be hung up as the internal editor steps in and interrupts the flow.
It’s like a referee constantly interfering in a game to correct a player’s technique.
It kills your flow and your productivity.
You might have a winning idea looking for an outlet on that topic.
The research you did might drop several perfect lines to make a whole campaign with.
All you have to do is write fast, bad, and “rong.”
It may be the equivalent of a gold medal-winning espresso blend in the making.
But by trying to write that perfect line in the first shot, it will never get done.
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