Fieldstone Method of Writing

In Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method, Gerry Weinberg (author of Are Your Lights On? and Secrets of Consulting) discusses his main writing workflow. Weinberg primarily collects ideas and words with energy behind them, which he refers to as “fieldstones”. He then analogizes writing to building a wall with stones. Overall I thought this book was fantastic, with many ways of generating ideas and working with them in an original manner.

Weinberg always seeks to move writing forward, and keeps a list of things to do depending on his energy level and state of mind. If he feels high in spirit, he might develop fieldstones into new sections. If he feels drained, he might reword a section that needs fine-tuning or perhaps take a break.

Weinberg’s technique seems to produce a volume of writing: he has published over forty books and numerous articles and other writings.

When reading through his description of the Fieldstone Method, I was struck by the similarity to my own writing technique. I tend to collect insights, thoughts, quotes, and articles that I find interesting and repurpose them in later work. I call these nuggets instead of fieldstones, but the concept is generally the same. They are raw materials for writing, things that strike me as useful but need explication. Typically when I write for other people I use these as a basis and then expand upon that until it likely makes sense for my audience. Parsimony and unambiguity are criteria to consider, with preference for the former for blogging (long posts don’t get read.)

This method significantly increases work in progress. My current blog draft count is half that of my published posts. Many of these are just plain nuggets, like a hyperlink or a sentence. Some have a few quick arguments or thoughts. A few are probably politically unpublishable. Still others are nearly done or completed. Hence, I need to strike a balance between writing what I feel energetic about and finishing articles that I have worked on. Weinberg recommends not writing about things that you are not interested in. This is different from sharing things that you have already learned and believe that others will be interested in.

I think the real power here comes because subconscious creative juices are not consistent. I only get one morning shower per day where inspiration hits. The key seems to be writing down nuggets whenever they strike, and then consistently fleshing them out afterwards. Keeping a journal or log of thoughts helps.

This method also works well with limited time constraints. If you have an hour a day to write or you commit to one hundred words, it’s nice to be able to write about something that interests you that day. Longer periods of time might be necessary for harder sections or cleaning up tough spots.

I found these quotes helpful:

The stone itself is not the key to effective writing. The key to effective writing is the human emotional response to the stone. As a writer, if I respond to a particular stone with tears of joy or sadness, I know that others will, too.

If I don’t respond, my readers probably won’t either. That’s the secret of the Fieldstone Method: Always be guided by emotional responses, or, as Fieldstone writers say, by the energy-the heat that coal provides when it burns inside of you.

I’ll have more to write about energy in the near future. For now, finishing this post.

The most important book you’ll ever have for your writing is the blank book, or the scrap of paper, or the card, or some modern electronic capture device that you have ready for writing down this reference.

Always be ready to capture. Inspiration strikes at strange times. You will forget insights that you have if you don’t immediately write them down. In the field, I email myself and star it for adding later to a permanent file.

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