Writing for Business

by Steve Roche

Getting started

I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.

Peter de Vries

Many people suffer from the ‘blank sheet of paper’ syndrome. They have a writing task to do, be it a report or a letter, and just don’t know where to start. The task, when considered as a whole, just seems too big.

Writing can be like getting ready to jump into a cold swimming pool – daunting when you think about it, but once you’re in, not as bad as you thought.

If you only think about the drudgery or difficulty of the task, it is little wonder that you may be reluctant to start. Many people overcome their writing block by envisaging the task already finished and imagining what that would feel like, and the benefits that would come from doing a good job. This is a good way to provide the motivation needed to make a start.

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

Thomas Mann

In order to do be motivated to start, you need to be clear about the need for the writing: why you are doing it and what it is designed to achieve. Thus, always start by getting clarity about

  • the purpose of the piece you need to write,
  • the outcome you are seeking by doing this writing and
  • the benefits that you will get once it is done.

Decide on the scope, so you know exactly what you are dealing with. If possible, talk it over with someone who can ask good questions to help you get clear on what should be included and, equally important, what should be left out.

You are now ready to break down the job into bite-sized pieces, so it sounds, looks and feels easier to manage. Make a couple of notes on each piece, jotting down what it is, what it covers, and why it is there in the plan.

Then start...

Start wherever seems easiest, even if that is part way through. You can always go back to do the beginning bits later.

Remember

... just START!

Once you have achieved this a few times, you will learn what works for you, especially what state you need to be in to make a successful start. Motivation to do anything is just a state, and a state can be managed. There is much more on this in the topic Motivation.

This quote from Gene Fowler is perhaps a little extreme as many people find, or have learned, that writing can be easy and enjoyable.

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.

Gene Fowler

Yes, some people even do it for a hobby!

If, however, you relate to the quote then make use of the following tips.

  • Write for short periods and take breaks.
  • Remind yourself that there will be life after this.
  • Dedicate a specific amount of time to the writing.
  • Set yourself some targets for partial completion.
  • Decide on a specific goal to achieve then give yourself a reward (I’ll have a cup of tea or take the dog for a walk, when I get to the end of this section).
  • Remember that all successful writers find that although the actual process may be painful, the outcome is well worth it
  • Ideally, write when you’re in the appropriate mood (though there may be deadlines).
  • Keep writing – if you can’t think of the right word or heading, put xxxx and carry on.
  • Sleep on it: when you come back to it, check for meaning and clarity.
  • Remember to stop – don’t go for perfection. Excellence is normally sufficient.