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  • Writer's pictureKatie Hynes, PhD

For Those Days When You Need to Write Faster but You Can’t Write Anything at All

You’ve got transcripts from your interviews with SMEs, PowerPoint decks from prior trainings, links to some relevant articles and videos… and now all you have to do is spin this into gold—i.e., video scripts and scenarios to support a program on providing effective feedback, which your company is running for senior managers.


And the deadline is coming up faster than you can say holy 93 days until my next vacation, Batman!


Throw in some good old-fashioned writer’s block, and your stress levels are curving like a hockey stick.


Depending on your company’s policies around using ChatGPT, maybe the bots are your next stop.


🤖 [hi!]


But even they need your editorial vision to get this project across the finish line. 🦾


Don’t worry! We’ve rounded up our favorite tips for when time is running out and the muse is MIA.


#1: Embrace the philosophy of “shitty first drafts”


💩 In Bird by Bird, writer Anne Lamott described this genius approach to sidestepping that nasty inner editor by encouraging folks to just get the ideas down and worry about cleaning it up later:

“You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page. If one of the characters wants to say, ‘Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?,’ you let her. No one is going to see it.” 

So there’s an opening line for one of your scenarios: “Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?” Write it down and see where the narrative takes you. Pressure’s off—it’s just a shitty first draft.

See also: Dr. Robin Sargent’s The Do It Messy Approach


#2: Bend time to your will with pomodoros


🌀 If time is a flat circle, mark those cycles of work-rest-repeat with the humble tomato.


You’ve probably heard of The Pomodoro Technique and likely have an opinion about this time management strategy.


While tracking pomodoros maybe isn’t an all-day everyday kind of thing for everyone, we really like this approach for kickstarting forward motion during a bout of writer’s block:


  • Set a timer for 25 minutes

  • Start freewriting without stopping to judge or edit your work (see tip #1)

  • Take a five-minute break

  • That’s one tomato woohoo 🍅 🎉

  • Repeat

Decide how many poms you’ll do before taking a longer break, and then before calling it a day. Feel free to play with the length of work and break times.


You’ll be surprised by what you produce and how motivating the tomatoes are.


Pro tip: If you pair up with a colleague who’s also on the project, this makes for a great coworking experience.


#3: Structures: If you build them, ideas will come


📑 You can save yourself time and grab inspiration off the shelf by pre-making outlines for common types of content you produce. For example, I’m using a top-three list to structure this post.


In this case, since you’re on deadline and might not have outlines ready to go, check out popular structures used in ID content and see what could fit your objectives—e.g., Connie Malamed has written about 10 of them here, like cause and effect and simple to complex.     


In addition, if you can quickly locate a few examples of scripts and scenarios that were successful in prior trainings, review them, and identify any patterns in their organization.


Assuming one of the structures you find makes sense for your content, set it as your model. Put signposts and placeholders in your current draft that correspond with the model’s outline.


See? The blank page is already filling up. Next, start developing each area of the outline.  


Worried everything will come out sounding the same if you’re reusing popular structures? Don’t be—a structure called the Hero’s Journey forms the backbone of everything from ancient myths to Finding Nemo.


Last-minute pep talk


Make the time you invested in reading this post on an extra overwhelming day (thank you, by the way!) pay off by picking one strategy to try right now.


Lower the bar, count tomatoes, find a readymade structure to develop. Let us know how it goes in the comments.


And if you’re still distracted by the inner critic, just respond to its bibble babble WELL SO WHAT MR. POOPY PANTS and keep going.


Want to work on your ID writing?

We've got three days to play: March 11, March 13, and March 14, 2024. Register at the link above.

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