Writing is easy when you have something to say. What happens when you know people are waiting for content and you draw a blank? I remember trying to force myself to sit down and write papers in college before they were due. Fat chance. But as I look back, even though I wasn’t writing them down, I was working on them in my head and making notes. What is systemic organization? This is nerd speak for “make a plan, work the plan.”
When you break writing down into a series of easy tasks that take very little time, you can keep your mind working without committing anything to the page until you are ready. In 2008, when asked to write a weekly column for a major legal publication, I jumped at the experience and loved until I started having a tough time coming up with topics on demand, having something to say and offering value. Yikes. In reaching back to my undergraduate work which at a Jesuit school, was writing intensive, I wrote out a systemic plan of attack to always come up with content, even when you aren’t feeling so inspired.
- Think about what audience really cares about.
- Research what others are saying about it.
- Make notes about possible paragraph topics.
- Write it down on paper, in outline format.
- Sit down and type, not stopping until you are done.
- Walk away from your work for a few hours or more.
- Submit, publish and walk away instead of second-guessing your work.
By taking the time to follow a construction process, I end up organizing my thoughts and putting the story together so well that when it is time to reduce it all to writing, the only limitations are my keyboard accuracy and words per minute.
I think back to writing college papers and working in short, manageable amounts of time. Doing so allows me to tackle just about anything, knowing I don’t have to start and finish it in one sitting.
Now, the system I use might not be a good fit for anyone else, but it is what works for me. What works for you? Maybe splitting up the work makes it easier for everyone. The risk is starting a bunch of projects and never finishing any of them, and unfortunately, I have no advice on point.
It has been many years since I wrote the legal column for Attorneys in Transition, eventually renamed Around the Water Cooler. In the meantime, I’ve been writing all kinds of marketing, advertising and public relations content for all my attorney and law firm clients. At this point in my career, my systemic organization is proprietary and second nature. But it never may have been if I didn’t pay attention on what worked for me and how to overcome challenges in writing for a living.
By Nick Augustine, J.D.
Public Relations and Marketing Director
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