My Creative Process

Nathanael Yellis By Nathanael Yellis • Last Updated May 18, 2021

I wrote the following as part of an email conversation a few days ago and think it's worth mentioning here. When I was a horrible writer, I thought writing was something that either came naturally or not at all. Since, I've learned that writing is like other creative processes--something you work at.

Whether writing a blog post, work report, or speech, what follows is the rough process I use. The exact process depends on the nature of what I'm working on.

Process in Three Steps
1. Initial Analysis
Audience: I construct a picture of who the targeted audience is, and what they are looking for. My goal is landing relevant points effectively, so I focus on who they are and what they care about.
Speaker or Platform: If I'm drafting a speech for someone else, I need to understand how that person talks--usually by spending a few minutes discussing the issue to be addressed. If it's a written piece, I consider the platform--blog, press release, op-ed, etc.
2. Drafting
Verbal drafting: I create and collect ideas by speaking them out loud. This is the fastest way I've found to generate solid phrases for a piece.
Visual drafting: I write the key phrases on a whiteboard or sticky notes, and edit by moving them around until it sounds right (appropriate for the audience and platform).
3. Final Draft & Edits
After I've produced something decent, I draft it and send it to the appropriate people for edits. If the piece is a speech, I try to have the speaker verbally draft (above) with me, at least briefly, so he can make the appropriate edits. I generally work very quickly on this stage, because I think that iterating quickly helps produce the best final version.
I think that gives you the basics of how I think, but it really varies depending on the audience and platform. I wrote and delivered a speech to my b-school graduating class, and spent a few days on it; I write campaign blog posts in 20-30 minutes. But I followed the same basic process.

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