With only a few weeks till the end of the semester, I asked my students to list the obstacles they saw to doing well with their big research paper.
I was expecting them to express lingering concerns about punctuation, or frustration about having to write in English when it’s not their first language, or the troubles they were having in gathering all their data in an organized way.
What obstacles do they actually foresee?
- Their social lives.
- Excessive partying.
- Their boyfriends and girlfriends.
- Their work schedules.
As the answers came fast and furiously, it was clear that their problems with the paper were more about procrastination and getting in the mood than about any actual writing problems.
I’ve chosen to interpret this as meaning that they have learned so much this semester that writing is no longer a source of frustration for them, and that’s great news.
What about you? If you’re responsible for writing at your website, and those are the kinds of issues you’re facing, what can you do?
First, let’s recognize that hiring a professional is often the smart thing to do. I can probably write your whole website in the time it takes you to get your first thoughts on paper, and have something fresh on your blog every day, too; there’s no point in doing this yourself unless you love it.
But sometimes you want to do a little writing, maybe a paragraph. A fresh piece of company news, a new description for a catalog item, an announcement. You figure you can do it in five or ten minutes, and keep your visitors interested while also calling out to the search engines, “Hey! Come and visit me! I have new stuff!” You don’t want to hire a pro for such a small job, and you’re confident that you can do this yourself.
But it’s not getting done.
I have a lot of clients who find themselves in this position. Solutions?
Well, the photograph above offers my favorite solution: sit down with a glass of wine and some really charming writing gear in some inspiring locale and wait for inspiration to come to you.
No, no, I don’t do that myself. I get paid to write. I have deadlines and coders waiting on me. I’m not going to fool around. I was just offering it for anyone who has the leisure.
Here are some quicker solutions:
- Write something. Anything. If you’re my client, send it to me and I can probably clean it up and shoot it back to you in under five minutes, which means no charge. If you’re not my client, you’ll still find it easier to get it finished if you have a few words to work with — even if it’s just a bad sentence or two — than if you’re staring at a blank screen.
- Start with one word. Say you have a new shipment of a popular item in. Start with the word for the item, and then expand on that word. This will naturally lead to “New Shipment of Widgets!” Then you can expand on the newness or the shipment (size of it, maybe?) and the sheer widgetiness of the widgets till you have a paragraph.
- Ask yourself a question. If you need to write a quick announcement of an event, you can ask yourself “What’s special about this event?” and then write down your answer. If that doesn’t help, get someone else to ask you a question. You’ll feel more compelled to answer it well.
If it’s been a week and you still haven’t done that paragraph, quit fooling around. This isn’t your area of strength, and you should just hire us to do these things for you on a regular basis.