writingBy Bobby Owsinski

After 6 books (including 3 second editions) and a few hundred magazine articles, I’ve been asked over and over again by friends, business acquaintances, and neophyte writers if I have a formula.

After stumbling around without a consistent technique early on like most novice writers, I eventually developed a method of writing that has never failed me. It’s made my creative life easier, less stressful, and kept writer’s block completely at bay. Of course, every writer has a different creative approach, but once I developed this particular process, my writing experience became so much more fun and exhilarating. I should state that most of my writing is non-fiction (instruction and text books with a lot of interviews) although I’ve used the method for fictional writing like scripts and screenplays as well. The method also works well for other creative endeavors that I do, like writing music, and audio and video editing. So here’s the method that works for me.

Perfection Not Required

First of all, I believe that the biggest problem for a writer (or any kind of creator for that matter) is trying to be too perfect too soon. It’s human nature to want the very first things out of your mind to be stellar, but creating generally doesn’t work that way, at least not for me. Creating with my method is a multi-step process, requiring enough time to adequately undertake each step. There are no short-cuts, but that’s also what makes it so liberating. There is no need to be perfect, and therefore you don’t expect it right away. The day I realized that I didn’t have to write something close to the final product when I first sat down was the best day of my creative life. The pressure was off and the creative juices flowed from that point on!

So if you don’t expect a document worthy of a Pulitzer right off the bat, just when do you expect it? In my method, I need at least 3 completely separate passes, preferably on different days, on any particular piece of work. The portion that I work on is manageable, which means essay, article or chapter length.

Brain Dump

On the first day, I write strictly stream of consciousness, not worrying too much about punctuation, spelling, formatting, extraneous details, or precision of the idea. All I’m interested in is getting as much of that idea (or ideas) down as I can. If I can’t think of a word or phrase, I’ll just mark it with an “xxx” so I can come back later and search for the perfect fit at that time. If there’s research material that has to be inserted, I spend as much time getting it in the document as I can at this point (which may get quite tedious), because the whole idea is to just get as much down on the page as possible regardless of the form. As a friend of mine so eloquently puts it, I “talk to the page”. Over the years, I’ve actually gotten better at making this first pass a readable document, but I still wouldn’t dream of showing it to anyone in it’s first-day manifestation.

By the way, I don’t consider this first pass complete until it covers the entire article, essay or chapter, so this pass might take several writing sessions over the course of several days, although I try to finish it the first time I work on it.


The second pass (almost always on a completely separate day) is for document refinement. This is where the ideas, formatting, spelling and punctuation are all put in place. This pass usually requires a fair amount of rewriting, since the stream of consciousness writing of the Brain Dump can be just words around a seed of an idea. Now the seed has to flower, so much of the creative work happens here as the ideas are expanded into something interesting and readable. There’s usually also a fair amount of cutting and pasting as compatible ideas are grouped together to tell the story.


The third pass (also on a separate day) is for polishing. Usually I find myself adding descriptive adjectives, turning a phrase differently, making everything as understandable as possible, and providing the piece with a hard ending. Sometimes I also find myself completing a task that I procrastinate on, which is writing the intro to either the article or a chapter. I personally find writing intros difficult, but I’ve discovered that if I leave it to the end they sometimes (but not always) write themselves, perhaps pushed along by the now completely formulated idea in the rest of the piece.


If the third pass requires a rewrite due to inclusion of new information or addition of an intro, I’ll probably take a 4rth pass as well, and rarely maybe a 5th, but by this point the changes are very small (a word here, a phrase there). Although it’s possible to fine-tune endlessly, I usually declare the piece complete at this point and await any corrections from an editor.

As I stated earlier, this method has done me well and has completely eliminated any pressure from writing, provided I have enough time. I’ve also found that I write best and stay the most focused in the morning. My writing is a little on the foggy side at night, so unless I’m under the gun, I try to make sure that I complete what I intended before the day gets long.

Maybe this 3 day method of brain dump, refinement and polishing won’t be your cup of tea and that’s okay, since everyone eventually discovers their own best way of writing. Regardless of the method you find works best, as long as you remember that perfection only comes with time and work and is not a product of your first pass, you’ll be way ahead of most other writers and on your way to doing your best work.

A long-time veteran of the music industry, Bobby Owsinski has produced and composed for records, motion pictures and television shows along the way. Currently a principle in the DVD production house Surround Associates and content creator 2B Media, Bobby has also penned hundreds of articles for many popular industry trade publications and has authored several books that are now staples in recording programs in colleges around the world including “The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook”, “The Recording Engineer’s Handbook”, “The Audio Mastering Handbook”, “The Drum Recording Handbook”, “How To Make Your Band Sound Great” and “The Studio Musicians Handbook”. His next book, “Music 3.0 – A Survival Guide For The New Music Industry” is due out in the 3rd quarter of 2009.

A frequent moderator, panelist and program producer of a variety of industry conferences, Bobby has served as the longtime producer of the annual Surround Music Awards, and is one of the executive producers for the “Guitar Universe” and “Desert Island Music” television programs.

Visit Bobby’s Blog at http://bobbyowsinski.blogspot.com/ and his website at http://bobbyowsinski.com

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