Finding time to write is overrated
If you’re struggling to find time to write for your business, you’re not alone. I’ve surveyed business owners and marketing professionals to find their major writing challenge, and 89% said it was lack of time.
I was going to write a blog post but something more important came up…
I’ll rewrite my website when everything else is done
This project is taking all my energies –I’ll write more when it’s finished
It’s true – there are so many demands for our attention and no matter how much energy we put into our to-do list, we’ll probably never clear it. So we put off writing until everything else is done – or we do pencil in time but it gets chewed up by the other things that crop up.
‘Time chew’ was my problem. As a writing consultant, I was developing resources to help business owners and marketers improve their writing practice. I had a full day every week for writing but I was achieving precious little – too many interruptions and sudden ‘urgent work’. I was also caught up in trying to perfect every word, sentence, paragraph.
It should have been easier for me. I was from TV news where I had to pull together multiple stories every day to a tight deadline. But now I was having trouble finishing just one thing in a day. Why?
It turns out time is like money. It doesn’t matter how much you have – if you’re not using it wisely, you’ll never have enough.
We can’t ‘make’ more time – we need to use what we’ve got
When I looked back on my news days, I realised it took less time to write then because the story had started to take shape before my fingers hit the keyboard. Journalists spend as much time gathering and evaluating elements of the story as they do writing it.
I’d been putting all my efforts into writing and not enough on the preparation that makes writing quicker and easier.
So I’ve developed a new process that I try to stick to. It’s based on well-established journalism practices, with effective business ideas that I’ve picked up from productivity experts such as James Clear (jamesclear.com) and David Allen (Getting Things Done). These days, my writing starts with collecting useful material and ends with repurposing for maximum effect.
The writing process
Capturing (2-3 minutes, often): Look out for ideas, words, phrases, images – anything you could use in your content. Stay open to sources– the most original ideas come from unexpected places. Be endlessly curious. Ask questions and urge people to tell you more. Collect names and contact details in case you want to follow up for case studies, or to quote them as industry experts, for example. Be sure to give a title or heading to your gathered information/inspiration, to make it easier to sort into useful categories.
Sorting (5 minutes, several times a week): Organising your captured material could be the most effective thing you’ll do before you write. Spend time at least once a week storing material into logical categories, adding basic notes such as how you might use the material, what research you still need to do, or the main dot points to cover when writing. It helps to create folders for different aspects of your business and writing. Some I use are Writing, Writing Productivity, Storytelling, ‘Content Marketing and Possibilities. Capturing and Sorting can be done together, or separately which gives time to decide if a ‘capture’ really is worth keeping.
Writing (once a week): The time you’ll need for writing will vary, depending on the project. But with the preparation done, it should take less time. Give yourself permission to write a draft, not a finished product. It’s ok if it’s lumpy and overwritten – or ‘ugly’ as it’s nicknamed by Ann Handley, author of Everybody Writes (a great resource). I’ll write more about this stage in future posts, including how to anchor your writing by spelling out what you hope to gain from this piece of writing (your purpose) and what you hope your audience will gain from reading it (your promise).
Refining (once a week): Time to edit and polish, correct mistakes and review whether you’re actually meeting the intended purpose and promise. It’s best when there’s at least a day between finishing the writing and undertaking the editing/proofreading. It also helps to get an exacting (but kind) reader to look over it. Judge the quality of your work not by comparison to other people’s writing but by how well it delivers on the purpose and the promise you intended to meet.
Publishing (once a week): Publishing is the end goal for each piece but what a waste of all that effort if it only gets one outing. Look for other ways you could use the writing, or parts of it. Every piece of content has the potential to be reworked for other purposes, and also the potential to spark new writing that continues the ideas and information you’ve just shared.
A time effective practice
One downside of seeing the writing process broken into stages is that it appears to involve more work and more time.
But most people are already doing some, if not all, of these stages anyway (or stressing about not doing them). Adopting the process simply means becoming intentional at every stage.
Developing a writing practice based on a solid process is a proven way to make sure we serve our audience and our business with good quality, original content on a regular basis.
If you’re struggling with following an effective process, or if you’d like help with the writing itself, we can work together in individual or group sessions that are specifically tailored to your needs and strengths. Drop me an email to find out more.