Writing Better: Process and Spot

Aug 12, 2014 | Better Writing

The reporters put one British pound (about $1.60) in a jar. Any reporter who guessed the two magic words would win that sumptuous prize.

Rory McIlroy had been played exceptionally well during the British Open golf tournament. All week reporters had asked him the secret of why he was playing the best golf of his life. There were two words, McIlroy told them, but he wouldn’t share them until the tournament was over.

When it was and he had won, McIlroy shared his two words. They were “process” and “spot.” Huh?

Process and Spot

The two words were reminders. “Process” reminded McIlroy to follow his process for making good decisions about each shot. It’s about strategy.

“Spot” was a reminder to pick a spot to roll his ball over when putting. It’s about execution.

There are a lot of things to think about out there on the golf course at a major tournament. You can imagine what will happen if you make this shot, or if you miss it horribly. You can see yourself holding up the trophy, imagine how a win will affect world rankings, or worry about what competitors will do or whether it will rain. Not one of those things will help you play better golf.

Writers face a similar problem. It’s easy to let your mind wander to almost anything except the writing task at hand. We need our own version of process and spot to help us get to work and concentrate on what we need to do. Here’s how things work for me.

My Process

My process starts when I stop my previous writing session. I want to end my session knowing what I want to write about next time. When I write until I’ve got it all down, the next session rarely goes well.

Sometimes it’s easy. The energy is still flowing and I know what’s going to come next. Other times I have to stop writing and think about what I want to say in my next session. But just knowing is not enough.

My Spot

Just having an idea of what I will write when I return to the project is a seductive thing. It’s easy to feel like you know what you’re going to say, even though all you have is a general idea. I have to get some details down on paper. That’s my “spot.”

I block out the first few paragraphs that I’ll write in a few words each. I’ll put them in order. Once that’s done, I know that I can do other things, but when I return to writing, I’ll be able to get right to it, efficiently and productively.

Your Process and Spot

That’s how things work best for me. What about you? What’s your process? What’s your spot?


According to the AP story, no one guessed Rory McIlroy’s two words, so it was going to be donated to a charity of McIlroy’s choice.

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