Getting Your Thoughts Into Words

, | Colin Dawson

Has it happened to you yet?

In your mind you have assembled your Modlette. Perhaps while driving home or walking the dog.

You feel excited and want to get writing. Then suddenly its time to prepare the meal.

Then when you sit down to write for your Modlette . . . .

You can’t put your thoughts into words anymore.

Where have your words gone?

Writing isn't like assembling a flat-pack bookcase

A flat-pack comes with instructions on how to turn a collection of parts into a bookcase.  This can be the beginning of a divorce if you attempt this with your partner.  However, the outcome is relatively certain . . . as long as you follow the instructions step by step.

But writing for instruction?

Not only do you have to collect the “parts” yourself, you also have to find your own method of assembling those parts in a shiny Modlette.  And what’s more, creativity means stepping into the unknown.  The outcome may be a little uncertain or completely unknown.

Writing is labour intensive:

  1. Writing is thinking, and thinking is tough
  2. Writing is communication; and communicating with clarity is tough work
  3. Writing is a creative process; and creativity is a fickle beast.

There is no IKEA plan for writing, and we are all different anyway.

So how can you get rid of writing frustrations?  And how can you turn yourself into a productive writer for your Modlettes.

I shall explain what we’ll call the Carpenter’s Method in this article and next week I will explain the Knitters Method and the Free Writing Method.

The Carpenter’s Method

When the carpenter builds a piece of furniture he doesn’t first make one side, perfect that, and then construct another side and perfect that.  He must build the entire frame and then go back and put the finishing touches on each section.

To me this seems the easiest way to produce good content reasonably quickly:

  1. Choose your subject
  2. Outline your learning activity
  3. Write a rough draft
  4. Revise your content
  5. Edit sentence by sentence.

Steven Presswell (author of The Legend of Bagger Vance) applies the same method to writing fiction.  He calls it the “clothesline method”.  On his clothesline, he hangs a series of scenes and sequences to decide what will happen in his book.

Some people think this structured method will kill creativity.  But an outline is not a straightjacket.

Your outline might be a short list of questions your learner wants answers to.  A list of steps your learners must take to solve a problem.

As an instructional writer, you’re in charge.  You can make your outline as detailed or brief as you like.  You can follow it meticulously or remain open for new ideas.  It’s often a matter of personal preference and how familiar you are with the piece of content you want to write.

Next week I’ll outline Freewriting and The Knitter’s Method.

Keep it simple . . . like making a Modlette

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