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How to Get After Your Next Writing Project

When I taught college writing courses, almost no one enrolled willingly. Whether it was required for their major or expected on their transcript for graduate school, many of my undergraduate students would have been quite happy to skip a composition course altogether. And with classes called College Writing or Research Writing or Advanced Writing, who could really blame them? 
 
Over the years, however, I noticed an interesting trend among the truly motivated. The students who admitted, even at the cost of their social currency, they wanted to become better writers generally had two reasons: 
  1. They would imminently face an important writing project. 
  2. They were graduating, and although they were almost ‘college educated,’ they felt their communication skills were poor. 
Both groups were dealing with as much fear and dread as the uninterested students, but they’d decided that becoming a better writer would make their lives easier and help them achieve their goals. 
 
And here we have the first significant component to becoming a better writer: desire.
 
When you’re facing your next writing project or deadline, don’t forget to harness your motivation. This simple mindset reframe is key to overcoming the fear, doubt, and procrastination most of us face when it comes to communicating our thoughts into words that will cause others to act, evaluate, or even, judge. 
 
But don’t worry. This article isn’t just a pep talk. 
 
Here are three simple hacks to helping you get started on your next writing project. 
  1. Record your thoughts. 
No, I don’t mean record in an antiquated way, but actually use a voice recorder to help you get started. It’s much easier to begin a writing project when the page isn’t blank. And with handy software tools from companies like rev.com, you can upload your recorded thoughts and have a printed transcript in minutes. And for only a couple of bucks. 
  1. Talk to someone. 
When I’m working with a new client, I use a question and answer format to help me understand the core concepts. But you can do this for yourself  and with yourself by creating a hypothetical dialogue between you and someone else about your writing project. It may feel weird at first, but the point is to anticipate your audience’s questions.
 
Your dialogue might look something like: 
 
Me: I have to write new copy for my website. 
 
Ralph: What’s your business? 
 
Me: I am a story coach and copywriter for small businesses and entrepreneurs. 
 
Ralph: Why don’t they just write for themselves? 
 
Me: Some of them have tried but they get frustrated. They spend hours creating writing that they don’t feel is very good. 
 
Ralph: So you rewrite it for them?
 
Me: Yes and no. What they receive isn’t just a rewrite because most of my clients have written too much or are still struggling with their message, so it’s more of a restart than a rewrite.
 
Ralph: What do you mean by message? 
 
Me: A simple way of thinking of it is the main idea. But in business, we might say that your message is the solution your business or product offers customers. 
 
And so forth. 
 
You’ll notice that my dialogue is NOT the writing that would go onto my website but it’s helping me identify the core concepts that I need to explore, and in this case, Ralph is playing the role of the audience. 
 
When I really force myself to think like an outsider, I encounter questions about my process and even questions about some of my key terms like ‘message.’ 
 
Extra credit: if you read my dialogue backward can you hear what my “message” or “solution” for businesses is? If you’re working on a passion project, this exercise still works. Instead of messaging, however, it can reveal your purpose.
  1. Schedule a meeting with yourself. 
Let’s face it. We’re all busy. Whether it’s work or family, we have to be intentional about starting a new project or getting a project done. Don’t think you’re just gonna find time. You might at first, but quickly that time will get hijacked by other perceived priorities. Instead, block time on your calendar to write. I recommend finding 30 minutes to one hour daily. 
 
***
 
For most of us, school is out. We’re not going back to college, even if they have the writing courses we need reviewed. But the good news is you don’t have to enroll in a university course to finally tackle a passion project or to stop procrastinating a project for work. What happens after you get started? Check out my next few articles and learn how to go from idea to polished writing. 
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