4. Now start writing
“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by” – Douglas Adams
I don’t know about you, but I’ve suffered from writer’s block (very badly when I was writing my MBA thesis) and it’s horrible. And at work, missing deadlines can cost you clients. Here are some tactics I’ve learned since that make the process so much easier:
- Do your planning first
- Warm up
- Write quickly
- Polish later
Do your planning first
You don’t have to start at the beginning. Start with the appendix if you like. Leave the introductions and conclusions until last if you find it easier. As you start to fill in the gaps in the structure you’ll gain confidence, and speed.
Think of writing like going to the gym – you don’t go straight to the heavy lifting or you’ll do yourself an injury. You do warm up exercises first.
Flex your writing muscles by doing some short writing exercises – not necessarily business writing. It could be as simple as writing a list (worst Christmas presents ever, dog breeds) or randomly connecting words into short paragraphs (ruler, traffic, newspaper, glass).
There is a time and place for fastidious perfectionism, and it isn’t when you’re drafting. Think ‘bulldozer’.
I used to perfect each paragraph as I went along. I wouldn’t start a section until I had polished the previous one. It was a complete waste of time because I’d end up rewriting half the document at the end anyway. Sometimes I’d spend ages polishing a paragraph only to delete it the next day. I don’t recommend this approach.
Write fast and don’t stop to perfect. If you get stuck on a word or idea, I write ‘XXX’ and move on. At the editing stage I do a search for the XXXs. Nine times out of ten I’ve figured out by then what I was trying to say.
For business writing, fast is more efficient, but don’t forget to edit and proofread. This is the time for fastidious perfectionism! And it helps if you leave some time after finishing the writing – if you give your brain a rest you are less likely to miss errors. Overnight is ideal, but even half an hour is better than nothing.
First edit, checking for sense and flow. Check that the readability score is appropriate, and improve if necessary by shortening sentences and using simpler words. Put in transition words to give the sense of a logical flow.
Then proofread, checking spelling, grammar and punctuation. Word tools like spell checker and grammar checker are good for this, but don’t rely on them because they aren’t fool proof. If it’s an important document, get someone else to check it for you. I guarantee they will find errors you missed!
My free PDF ‘The Seven Deadly Writing Sins’ will also help – sign up on the right sidebar if you haven’t done so already.
Images courtesy of thaikrit and pakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net