What do you do? Panic? Make a fresh cup of coffee? Take a walk outside? Or tie yourself to your desk chair, vowing not to get up until it’s finished?
We’ve all had these moments of frustration when the words refuse to come. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one.
Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then start on the first one.”
One way to do that is to use a template. Michael Hyatt suggests, “I create a template for any task I find myself doing repeatedly. So instead of reinventing the wheel every time, I do it once, save it as a template, and then reuse it.”
If you’ve every written a book proposal, you understand the value of a template. And you compose it in chunks, right? In fact, just typing the cover page is a helpful way to start; then, you go on to the next page.
I use templates as I compose teaching or speaking notes, as well as for some of my hard-to-write blog posts.
I start with an overall look at the topic.
- Audience. I start by examining who I’m writing for, or who will be attending the event.
- Felt need or problem. I examine not only what problem I’m addressing, but also what I want the audience to know and to do.
- Main thought. For me, it’s often hard to reduce my message into one or two words. So, I attempt to summarize my message in one sentence to get my focus.
- Scripture or reference. Since I write on nonfiction, Christian topics, I write out the main scripture or promise I want to share, or the authoritative source.
The next part of my template includes spaces for each section planned.
- Opening statement or story. Here’s where I try to capture the attention of my audience with a quotation or an intriguing story.
- My story. I connect with the topic, using an illustration from my own experiences.
- Our story. I consider borrowing from other people or source that expresses how many reader will relate to the subject.
- Resource. What does my primary resource say about this topic? This could be Bible reference or another authoritative source.
- Your story. Now, I try to lead the reader to connect the topic with one of her own life stories.
- Application. I encourage the audience to adopt some practical way to apply the message that might change their life.
- Conclusion. What is the take-away? Write something the audience can remember—a clever quote, a power statement, or repeat what you just said in the post in a memorable way. I propose a premise, then reinforce it with strong, concluding words.
How do you handle those times when the words won’t come for your project?
I hope you will consider developing a template for those tasks you find yourself doing routinely, like blog posts or speaking notes.
And if all else fails, just take a walk or do anything to get your mind off your writing, and allow yourself to refocus on something pleasant or beautiful.
Then, go back to your desk, sit down, and just write!
Have templates helped you in your writing? If so, share a few examples with us.