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Make the Last Thing First

Photo by Christoph Wesi on Unsplash

Visionary Writing Techniques #012

by John Onorato

At this point, I’ve read a lot of your essays. Maybe not every single one, but close 😉

Pretty frequently, I’ve observed that the beginnings of essays tend to feel clunky and unrefined. But about halfway through, everything starts coming together.

It often feels like the writer took a little while to “get up to speed.”

Ultimately, though, they “hit their stride”, and they lead us across the finish line with them.

Sure, sometimes that introductory material is valuable. Sometimes it provides context and/or data needed to fully understand the material in the second half of the essay. Sometimes it serves as a prologue, or a ramp-up to the final paragraph or two.

And other times the last few paragraphs of an essay function very very well — as the first few paragraphs of a different essay.

Dump Your Brain Out

So I invite you to freewrite. Do a brain dump. Get all your thoughts out on paper (or on a screen, as the case may be). When you’re done, walk away. Don’t think about your essay for at least a few hours. Give your brain a chance to rest.

After a while, come back to your piece. Re-read it. And no matter what it’s like, love what you’ve written. It’s perfect just like it is. You know how I know? Because that’s what happened.

It can still be better, though. It can still be improved. That first draft?
That’s your block of marble right there. Then act like you’re Michelangelo carving David out of that massive block. Cut away anything that doesn’t serve your stated purpose or intention for the piece.

You might well find that the first few paragraphs don’t serve you any more. You might well find the last couple of paragraphs work much better.

So cut away the first paragraphs. Get rid of them. Start your (new) essay with the last couple of paragraphs you wrote for the (old) essay.

Why? Because they work better. And because you wrote them when you were on fire for the assignment.

In the first few paragraphs, you’re just getting that fire started. You’re fumbling around with kindling and matches, setting up the logs for optimum burning, making sure there’s airflow, and so on.

It’s in the latter stages of an essay that we’re actually on fire for what we’re writing. It’s only in the latter stages when everything starts coming together. That’s when the fire starts burning merrily. We no longer have to blow on it to make sure it catches. It’s caught, it’s burning, and now we’re all looking around for the S’Mores.

That’s when it all starts working together right.

In other words, once you have everything out on paper, take what’s last, and make it first.

Sure, this might change the reasoning and tone of your essay. It might make a completely different essay. But here in the Visionary Program, we’re used to change. After all, change is the only constant.

Bringing It Home

This is a technique I use myself. As I start my day as a freelance writer, I will frequently “warm up” by working on writing tasks that are relatively unimportant. I might work on emails or other correspondence, or I might write a journal entry. Just to get the creative juices flowing. Just to get in Flow.

I start on the important stuff only after I’ve lit my fire.

I do this because I’m a professional. So I know that in any given day, the first few words out my my fingers are going to not be worth much of anything. I don’t work on client projects first thing. Because client projects are important to me; they’re how I make my living, so I have to make a good showing.

Granted, you might not make your living with your words. But you’re in the Visionary program for a reason. Why not make the best showing you can?

And this is one way you can make that good showing: By putting your last words first.

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Hand vs Computer

Image Courtesy The Medical Leader

Visionary Writing Techniques #08

By John Onorato

I know a way to make your writing even better than it already is.

You just have to do one simple thing. ✅

And I’m about to tell you what that thing is.

After I tell you how to make your writing better than it already is, I’ll share a very personal reason I use this exact tip myself.

Now, I’m sure you’ve read thousands of examples where they “tease” some juicy tidbit (like I just did), then they make you endlessly doomscroll before they let you know what that tidbit is …

… and then what they have to say is so basic, it feels like a complete letdown when they do share the tidbit.

I’m not going to do that, though.

I’m going to share my juicy tidbit here in the first page.

You ready to make your writing even better than it already is?

Read on, then. It’s at the head of the next section, I promise.

About That Secret

If you want to 10X your writing, all you have to do is step away from your computer.

That’s right. All you have to do is step away from the computer.

I did this a year or two ago, and it’s one of the best things I could have ever done for my writing.

All you have to do is step away from your computer, and get some paper.

Get a pen, too. Or a notebook and a pencil. It doesn’t matter. What we’re going to do here is write by hand.

“But John,” I can already hear you wail, “we never learned cursive!”

Really? You didn’t? That’s a serious shortcoming of most modern schooling, in my opinion.

But Why?

Why should you ditch the keyboard for your pre-first drafts?

First off, because writing by hand engages a completely different part of the brain. Writing via typing is great, and at least for me, it’s much faster than writing by hand.

Note that “writing via typing” means “writing on a keyboard.” Given that typewriters are no longer really a thing (unless you’re part of Austin’s own “Typewriter Rodeo“), writing via typing usually means you’re on a computer.

Besides that “different part of the brain” thing, notebooks offer no distractions. Facebook doesn’t bother you when you’re working with a piece of paper.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that as a freelance writer, speed is often of the essence for me. So many of my articles — like this one — are written direct-to-keyboard. But I have developed a pretty good method for keeping my focus where it needs to be.

Still, it’s not a perfect system. Besides, the majority of my Really Good Articles saw their origins in one of my notebooks.

Another benefit is that writing with your own hands helps you retain and use information — even if you never pick it up again later.

See, when you’re writing on a keyboard, you’re basically just transcribing your own thoughts. You’re not really working with them. When we write by hand, we do it much more slowly. Therefore, we end up being more selective, choosing only the most important points to write down and use.

This causes you to craft your content more efficiently.

Writing by hand also causes you to recall information easier. I’m willing to bet you don’t remember many of your friends’ phone numbers, even if you call them frequently. That’s because you’ve typed them into your phone, and the phone remembers them for you. I’d also be willing to bet you can remember phone numbers from your distant past — when you wrote them down by hand.

When writing by hand, you are having, by default, a richer experience than you would at a keyboard. When we are performing a sequenced physical activity that uses muscles and nerves in a complex pattern, our brains love it. Doing that, our brains are awash in rich sensory and motor feedback. And the more feedback we get from an activity, the easier it is for our brains to form and later retain those memories.

Thus, the mere finger-tapping of keyboards offer our brains a much more sparse experience than the complex patterns involved in handwriting.
In other words, keyboards are much less stimulating than moving our hands in the intricate patterns required when writing by hand.

In Conclusion

I’ll close with another reason to write by hand. This is my reason, and it waxes far more personal.

My father writes me letters. (He’s single-handedly saving the Post Office, don’t ya know.) Many of those letters he used to write by hand. So there’s a certain sense of nostalgia for me in there.

Perhaps more importantly, though, as I started to write by hand more often, I observed many similarities between my father’s handwriting and my own. It was all in the loop here and the swash there; as I watched my letters forming on the page, I could see echoes of my father’s writing.

Thankfully, my father is still with us. But the days of him writing much by hand are long behind him. I will always treasure the letters he wrote to me in his own hand.

Maybe that’s a gift you can give your own kin. I invite you to do exactly that. Physical letters, especially those written by hand, will forever occupy a special place in my heart — one that can never be taken over by another activity.

So — to make your writing 10X better, all you have to do is start away from your computer.

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For Gerry

For Gerry


Won’t the clouds
please stay still
for just a moment

let me enjoy
being with my friend
one last time —

Let me soak it in
your house,
your dog
the organs you played
your pictures and your glassware and your books
all so precious to you

your presence,
never strong
always gentle
and now
fading
away.

At least you’re better.
At least you’re free of pain.
At least you are there
with the gods
looking down on us
smiling
as we struggle on
without you.


Here’s some stories and anecdotes about the friend in this poem, who passed away in late 2019.

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Freelance Writer for Hire


Let’s have a conversation!

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closeup of typewriter with text "the right to write"
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Do you struggle with creating superior content for your business?

Are you too busy changing the world, and don’t have time to write?

Does your current copy not convert well enough?

I’m your writer. I can help.


I am also willing to create content on a per-word or per-hour basis. This information is found after the packages 👇🏼


Bite-Sized Offer

One (1) blog post, essay or article,
750-1300 words
$149

If you’d like to see what I can do without making too much of a commitment, this is the package for you. I’ll write a blog post for you, an article or an essay, nearly anything your heart might desire.

All you have to do is contact me, and we’ll get the ball rolling.


Premium Package

12,000 words of content, delivered any way you choose$2,450

Don’t know what kind of content you need? I’ve got you covered.

12,000 words is forty pages. That’s a lot of content for a great price!

I’ll write press releases, blog posts, biographies, technical articles, Frequently Asked Questions, listicles, comparisons, anything you might need.

Let’s get started! All you have to do is contact me.


Blogger’s Delight

Ten 1000-word blog posts$1,950

My blog posts are guaranteed to boost your standing in Google search results.

I love writing about conscious business practices and technical subjects. I want to improve your business by writing about what you need!

Getting started is dead simple. You only have to contact me!


On-Call or Retainer Services

2000 – 6000 words of content, delivered monthly$variable

Need content, but don’t know how much? I got your back.

For a monthly retainer fee, I am at your beck and call.

We will first have a conversation about what you need, then we’ll see how I can serve that need.

Let’s talk! Just contact me to get started.


Per-Word and Per-Hour

Don’t want to engage with the packages above?

No problem!

Per Word$0.15 / word
Per Hour$60 / hour

Editing

The only thing I love doing more than writing is editing.

Seriously.

I love making other people look great in writing. I love polishing and honing words until they shine so bright, they might pierce the sun.

My rates for editing are as follows:

Basic Copyediting$40 / hour5-10 pages / hour
Heavy Copyediting$50 / hour2-5 pages / hour

Please note: “Heavy” copyediting is more involved and detailed than “Basic” copyediting.


Nota Bene (note well)

  1. In order for me to start a project, I ask that my clients put 50% of our total agreed-upon price down. The rest will be due on completion.
  2. I invoice through Wave, which enables you to make payments with credit card or bank transfer. I’m also happy to accept PayPal.
  3. It is customary for projects under $500 to be paid upfront.
  4. I want you to be happy with the work I perform for you. If you are not, please let me know and I will revise the work to your specifications.
  5. Revisions should not include new instructions.

Other Stuff

Don’t see a package that strikes your fancy?

Let’s have a conversation about how I can help your business!

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Testimonials

“John is a great Writer. I use him all the time to write blogs for my company Austin Visuals and Speed Friending Events. I highly recommend that you use his service. He is very flexible, kind, intelligent, and easy to work with. He always gets his writing done on time too.”

Matthew Winters, President and CEO of Austin Visuals 3D Animation Studio


“I highly recommend working with John Onorato.  He is kind, easy to work with and a great writer! I used him to write some of my blogs, and I’m very happy with his work.” 

Noa Simmons, Owner of noa noa design solutions interior decorating

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Test Post

This is a Test Post.

I’m adding content slowly.  This is a test post created with the editor that Bento wants you to use.

I can’t remember the name of it, though.

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Welcome to the Gutenberg Editor

Of Mountains & Printing Presses

The goal of this new editor is to make adding rich content to WordPress simple and enjoyable. This whole post is composed of pieces of content—somewhat similar to LEGO bricks—that you can move around and interact with. Move your cursor around and you’ll notice the different blocks light up with outlines and arrows. Press the arrows to reposition blocks quickly, without fearing about losing things in the process of copying and pasting.

What you are reading now is a text block the most basic block of all. The text block has its own controls to be moved freely around the post…

… like this one, which is right aligned.

Headings are separate blocks as well, which helps with the outline and organization of your content.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Handling images and media with the utmost care is a primary focus of the new editor. Hopefully, you’ll find aspects of adding captions or going full-width with your pictures much easier and robust than before.

Beautiful landscape
If your theme supports it, you’ll see the “wide” button on the image toolbar. Give it a try.

Try selecting and removing or editing the caption, now you don’t have to be careful about selecting the image or other text by mistake and ruining the presentation.

The Inserter Tool

Imagine everything that WordPress can do is available to you quickly and in the same place on the interface. No need to figure out HTML tags, classes, or remember complicated shortcode syntax. That’s the spirit behind the inserter—the (+) button you’ll see around the editor—which allows you to browse all available content blocks and add them into your post. Plugins and themes are able to register their own, opening up all sort of possibilities for rich editing and publishing.

Go give it a try, you may discover things WordPress can already add into your posts that you didn’t know about. Here’s a short list of what you can currently find there:

  • Text & Headings
  • Images & Videos
  • Galleries
  • Embeds, like YouTube, Tweets, or other WordPress posts.
  • Layout blocks, like Buttons, Hero Images, Separators, etc.
  • And Lists like this one of course 🙂

Visual Editing

A huge benefit of blocks is that you can edit them in place and manipulate your content directly. Instead of having fields for editing things like the source of a quote, or the text of a button, you can directly change the content. Try editing the following quote:

The editor will endeavor to create a new page and post building experience that makes writing rich posts effortless, and has “blocks” to make it easy what today might take shortcodes, custom HTML, or “mystery meat” embed discovery.

Matt Mullenweg, 2017

The information corresponding to the source of the quote is a separate text field, similar to captions under images, so the structure of the quote is protected even if you select, modify, or remove the source. It’s always easy to add it back.

Blocks can be anything you need. For instance, you may want to add a subdued quote as part of the composition of your text, or you may prefer to display a giant stylized one. All of these options are available in the inserter.

You can change the amount of columns in your galleries by dragging a slider in the block inspector in the sidebar.

Media Rich

If you combine the new wide and full-wide alignments with galleries, you can create a very media rich layout, very quickly:

Accessibility is important — don’t forget image alt attribute

Sure, the full-wide image can be pretty big. But sometimes the image is worth it.

The above is a gallery with just two images. It’s an easier way to create visually appealing layouts, without having to deal with floats. You can also easily convert the gallery back to individual images again, by using the block switcher.

Any block can opt into these alignments. The embed block has them also, and is responsive out of the box:

You can build any block you like, static or dynamic, decorative or plain. Here’s a pullquote block:

Code is Poetry

The WordPress community

If you want to learn more about how to build additional blocks, or if you are interested in helping with the project, head over to the GitHub repository.


Thanks for testing Gutenberg!

👋

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Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!
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