The Four Elements Of Writing: From Incubation to Illumination

Within daily life, we all have some form of ritual we look forward to; whether it’s dance classes at the gym, a coffee upon waking, or brunch every Saturday morning. Consider writing an article as an example. It may be an irregular activity for you, yet, whenever you do put the time aside, you work through the ritualised process of phases and the steps. Following these, you reach the end goal, with the sense of fulfilment that accompanies a project’s completion.

However, as with any creative outlet, there are difficulties, and they manifest differently for everyone. Getting started may seem simple to some, while a mountainous task to others. Anyone who has experienced writer’s block will divulge, that beginning is just as effort-full as the other step. Follow these steps to discover the ease and flow of your creativity:

Distractions And Space Curation

Discover what inspires you to get into a creative writing mode. You might be a ‘candles, incense, and soft music’ scribbler whose mind maps of colour turn into stories when surrounded by a conducive atmosphere. Alternatively, your writing catnip might include a favourite chair and a cup of coffee. Your ultimate could be a gentle breeze and bird song while lounging in a hammock, or perhaps it’s an enclosed space filled with silence. Choose what works for you.

Acknowledging and minimising your distractions will allow you to focus on the present moment. First tend to those stray, stunting thoughts about incomplete chores before settling down to write with wild abandon.

Now you’re in your space of inspiration, devoid of distraction, your imagination is wild and brimming with potential. Here are four steps to guide you through writing process phases, one element at a time:

EARTH: Preparation Phase

Just as the planet forms a solid foundation, the writing process needs a preparation stage from which to expand and create. It is here that ideas are grounded, the intent of the article becomes a solid vision, and the purpose is clarified. Take note of your audience and what style suits them. Is it professional, straight to the point, or is there an opportunity to conjure up a creative paragraph that entices the reader with wit and excitement? It is crucial that you are aware of your audience’s preference from the very start as it will influence everything about the article, right down to the sentence length. You should also be aware of the age, gender, reading level, and language of your target audience are all important factors. Distinguish whether you’re writing in UK or US English and consistently check up on this comprehensive list of variations.

As you scour the brief, read through all the accompanying information and follow any provided links. Gather an armful of your favourite snacks, settle down to spend some time researching, reading articles, listening to podcasts, or watching YouTube videos. Depending on the topic and your knowledge, it usually takes 3-8 articles to get a firm grasp on the subject. Generated here, the layout and subheadings will serve as a strong base.

AIR: Incubation Phase

This is a phase of fewer written words. Instead, they’re all in the ether, swirling around like the enchanting, wild, and wonder-filled element of air. You can choose to do the free writing exercise before or after incubation. Allow your words to remain unseen until the next stage when notions are made known, and the state of flow is realised. Let your imagination wander down yellow brick roads, race up moving staircases, and rush over imaginary bridges. Jot down ideas and words that come to mind before shifting your focus off the article, completely. As you read, sleep, or go for a walk, you’ll arrive closer to the a-ha moment when understanding dawns, and you can ‘see’ it all come together. Trying to force it will only increase your frustration and build mental blocks. It may seem counterintuitive until you give it a go and learn to trust the process.

FIRE: Free Writing

With a timer, pen, and paper, set your mind free of the usual grammar, spelling, and structural restrictions. The only rule is that you must not edit. With no functional format, your words in this phase will embody the essence of flames--expressive, passionate, and fiery. Watch as your page is set alight with a rush of burning words, ignited by inspiration and emotion. Allow your pen to colour outside the lines or tap away at your keyboard as ideas spark into existence. Another option here is to express your insights verbally, either talk aloud with another or record yourself and then transcribe. The intent is to allow uncensored, sudden, and deep thoughts to become cemented in tangible reality.

WATER: Illumination

In this final phase, water presides. Where everything was wild and unruly while fire reigned, this calming element hones the genius expelled during the free-writing phase. To ensure you get the intended point across eloquently, you’ll need to drown your darlings, a take on Stephen King’s sentiment that when editing, you need to, “kill your darlings.” Using the force with which water erodes the rock surface, be ruthless with your edits. Cut and rework until the waters are calm enough to see through with clarity. Know that the sound of cinders sizzling will get your point across so that when the pebble drops and your article is released, the ripples spread out.

SPIRIT: Continuation

The elements have gathered in creative formation to guide you through your future writing processes, from Incubation to Illumination. Each phase is translated onto the page and absorbed. They are the four unseen forces woven into words; they mould paragraphs of power and siphon seductive sentences. They provide the reader with nourishment, relayed through clarity, cohesion and craft. And then the cycle begins again.