I am not sure how I got started promoting the concept of maintaining an “Unpolished Gem” file. I can’t even remember when I started one myself. I do know it pops up when I teach bloggers and writers how to keep an unending flow of content coming into their blogs, guest posts, essays, articles and poetry.
I do remember when I started writing as a way to make a living: I built my life coaching business by writing articles and having them republished (back then primarily in ezines) so since that time I have had essays, how-to’s, top tens and almost anything else you can imaging published both on the internet and also in magazines, compilations, ebooks and ecourses.
The blood flowing through all of this is… The Unpolished Gem: little snips and nuggets of writing I started and didn’t necessarily use right away but I knew it was worth returning to – maybe – someday. Sometimes people hesitate to start a file, thinking it will be too overwhelming but part of the point of an Unpolished Gem file is it takes pressure off.
How? Well, it tells you “if you don’t have the juice, passion or desire to finish this right away, you don’t have to! If you are blocked half way through or even just have a title, you may tuck it into your unpolished gems file and move along to whatever else is on your agenda.
Your unpolished gem file also reminds you the truth of content: you will never run out of material. Certainly other people have written articles similar to this one. Maybe you have read a few. The difference is I have not yet squeezed out all the goodness from this topic. You reading this today is a fine example of that.
When you are blocked, you have multiple choices of where to go to write next. Just pick an unfinished one and write a sentence. If anything else comes, yes! If after one additional sentence you’re done, then you’re done for now. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Cliché and true.
How do you start an Unpolished Gem File? I am very simple with mine. I make a folder I call “UPGs”. Within my UPG folder are subfolders for both the month they were written and the topic it falls under. This particular essay (should it remain unfinished for a bit) will go in July2012 and Writing-Editing and maybe Writing-Inspiration.
Perhaps you are thinking, “This is all well and good, Julie, but I don’t have any writing I haven’t used on my blog.”
This makes me raise an eyebrow. Really?
Perhaps it is time to look at all the writing you do as possible future content. I am going to share seven places to look. Choose one place and glean – or collect – nuggets to write from later – every day this week. I guarantee if you try this, by the end of the week you will have more than enough content for your blog for a month or more.
- Gold nugget paragraphs in emails, blog comments or facebook messages. When do people tell you, “Oh, that was so helpful!” or “Oh, please tell me more about…” these are hints that you should write that content. So do it. Copy, paste and just like that: an unpolished gem!
- Tweets that get responses and interaction from people. Diamond Nugget: Anyone who has been using twitter for a while knows some tweets naturally attract conversation and questions. Look for patterns via your unpolished gems. Copy and paste the tweet that has garnished the most attention this week. Write an additional 140 characters. Tweet it and UPG it. This is repurposing at its finest.
- Top 10 lists that seem to ask you for more details (especially if they have gotten lots of comments on your blog). Opal Nugget I started an ezine more than ten years ago based on this idea. At the time I thought I was writing a book. I still may be. But in the meantime, this fed my entire business! Look at any Top 10 lists you created (don’t have any? Create some! This right here is a Top 7 list: same concept, different number.) Choose one (or more) of the tips and put it into an UPG…
- If you keep a journal (a diary, a “notebook” as I call mine) I am willing to bet there are sections without that are pure Ruby Nuggets. Take some time daily for a week to crack open journals from at least six months ago with a yellow highlighter and sticky notes in your hand. Highlight your best sentences, phrases and paragraphs. Mark the page with a sticky note. In the back of the journal, write a table of contents which may go something like this: “Item 1: Writing Gratitude Item 2: Forgiveness Item 3: Ending Procrastination Item 4: Befriending Block.” This is sooooo easy! Don’t make it harder than it is. Please.
- Revisit Sections of earlier writings that call you “come back, come back!” Pluck, glean and write. You know that blog post from last September? The one about? Revisit it and just like with the journal, see what has stood the test of time. Revise the blog post accordingly. Maybe there is a Top 10 list waiting to be born or a poem or a How-to. You won’t know unless you glean, write and revise. Perfect Silver Nugget!
- Emerald Nuggets from Stream of Consciousness Writing Exercises: This actually assumes you spend times when you write with NO purpose at all. Just to write. Well, if you don’t, I urge you to start. I write from quotes, from memes I find online and from images, works of art and even photos I take. Without thinking, just write and write and write. Time your writing and keep it to fifteen minutes at the maximum. What I find is I can get a lot written in 15 minutes and even though I originally sat down to write about Virginia Woolf’s Room of Her Own, I end up writing about an experience in a restaurant in Pueblo, Colorado that was waiting for me to listen. Take those “waiting” pieces of writing & morph into something publishable.
- Finally, scoop up a handful of Garnet Nuggets from conversations that won’t stop replaying in your head. In my case, these conversations are sometimes actually overheard conversations I wrote into my cell phone note taker. I have written a lot of “overheard poetry” but this also helps the fiction and memoir writer in creating and recreating dialogue. Because I did this yesterday, I can’t get the image of the two men at the table across from me at Jack in the Box out of my head. I know they are there to write about, so when I am done with this, I’m going to set my timer and just write… and see how the Garnet Nugget mixes with the Emerald Nugget so I can hit blogging and writing paydirt!
The bottom line is creating places where you have work-in-progress helps raise your confidence and simply enjoy your writing more. Isn’t that why you started to blog in the first place? Maybe it was to build your business, but I am willing to bet a big part of it was to find and stretch your voice more deeply and widely out into the world.
So today, start your Unpolished Gem file and put some writing nuggets inside.
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© 2012 by Julie Jordan Scott
Julie Jordan Scott has been a Life & Creativity Coach, Writer, Facilitator and Teleclass Leader since 1999. She is also an award winning Actor, Director, Artist and Mother Extraordinaire. She was twice the StoryTelling Slam champion in Bakersfield. She leads Writing Camp with JJS & this Summer will be traveling throughout the US to bring this unique, fun filled creative experience to the people wherever she finds the passion & the interest.
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