The other day I was digging around in someone’s basement, doing some work as a professional organizer. I held up item after item for the client, each time prompting a response of “keep,” “yard sale,” or “toss.”
I soon realized he wasn’t organizing; he was editing.
Organizing is about making decisions. Some people make them quickly, while for others, each decision requires time and consideration. Editing and writing, are very similar. You must decide what words to keep and what to toss. Some thoughts can be stashed in a box and labeled for later use, but how do you decide?
Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult for some people to write. Writing is like navigating a dark basement, packed full of dusty ideas. It’s scary down there. You might run into bugs, cobwebs of old thoughts barely strung together. You might even trip and fall on words such as “there” and “their.”
So here are the steps to organizing your way toward a decent blog post or newsletter article for your clients and customers:
1. Assess. In organizing, we start with a tour of the entire house or office, even if the client wants to work only on one room or area. We need to get the big picture before we can begin our work. That way, when we find a shoe in the kitchen, we know we it might belong. Before writing, take stock of what content you have already. Have you constantly talked about Product A, but never discussed Product B? Is all your content in one place, easily accessible? Maybe you’ve got URLs all over the place with content and ideas spread across the Internet. You might need to employ spreadsheet to sort through it all and figure out what you’ve got already.
2. Focus. Too many ideas can cause overwhelm, just as some organizing clients are overwhelmed by all the stuff in their closets. Eek! How do you know where to begin? In organizing, you can use a cardboard tube. Look through it as though it was a spyglass and settle on one particular area. In writing, your spyglass will come in the form of questions: What’s bothering you right now? What ideas keep surfacing lately when speaking to clients? What’s the most important or most useful thing your clients should know or want to know? Now that you know what you’ve got (see Step 1), what topics are missing that you could mention to include all of your customers and clients?
2. Prepare. When organizing a space, I set up a trash can, a bag for recycling, a bag for donations and possibly, a bag for items to be shredded. I also set up a bin for items that belong in another room. Each bin or bag is labeled so we can’t forget what we’re doing. I have a toolbox with labels, markers, sticky notes, tools and anything else we might need. Everything is laid out and ready to go so that once we begin sorting, we don’t have to leave the room.
The same is true for writing. What tools do you need? (Usually a computer if you’re typing.) But maybe you also need some water or a caffeinated beverage. Maybe you need to eat first so your brain is ready to fire away. Keep any notes you are using close by, along with any reference materials. Do you plan to include photos with this blog post or newsletter article? (The answer should be “yes.”) If so, where are they saved? Turn off your phone; make sure you’ve set aside time to tackle this writing. Ignore email and darken the second monitor where Twitter temptations constantly flit in.
3. Write. In organizing, we start with just one item. I pick it up and we begin making decisions. In writing, you’ll just have to start with a single word. But write that word, and the one after that and finish a sentence. Keep going. Don’t go back and self-edit right away. As Nike used to say, “Just do it.”
4. Edit. In organizing, once we’ve purged items, we go back and sort them into specific areas of the space. Plates in this cupboard, glasses in that one. Holiday decorations in this corner of the basement, exercise equipment in that corner. Once you’ve wrapped up your thoughts, go back and self-edit. Does it all flow well? Is everything sorted into complete thoughts that make sense? What tweaks need to be made to make it flow better?
5. Use it. Whether it’s your basement or your newsletter, call it done and put it out there.
6. Adjust. Finally, if something isn’t working (no comments on the post or can’t find that box in the basement?), then try another approach.