For me, writing can be painful and easy to procrastinate. I have chosen to do it for a living though because once I get over the hump, I can fall into it and time stops for me. And I love having written.
Sometimes I just loath having something in front of me that I need to write. Like getting a kid to eat liver and onions, I need external structures (like bribery) and trickery to get me to do it. And it’s how I make a living, so that can be a problem. I do manage to do it, though, by employing a number of strategies I have picked up over the years.
If you LOVE writing and find it easy, you might want to stop reading now. If, on the other hand, you are like me, read on and I’ll show you how I use teeny tiny baby steps to get all my writing done when my own anxiety about it through the roof.
[I]sn’t it easier just to move forward one centimeter and let momentum help you out?
― Stephen Guise, Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results
For me, writing a medical blog post involves five basic steps: (1) coming up with an idea (2) gathering sources (3) taking notes from those sources (4) writing a draft and (5) editing the draft. I should add that some people would add another step for outlining, but I don’t do that very often so I left it off.
Each step can, in turn, be broken down into smaller steps if it is a particularly hard step for you. For example, I break step #4 down into writing 50 words at a time, an idea I got from Stephen Guise in his book Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results.
If you are paralyzed by procrastination, after reading this post I would check out Guise’s book for guidance. His is the best method for overcoming procrastination that I have found–He did not pay me to say that and I don’t get any money for recommending his book.
The five steps I mentioned above usually take me at least five days to complete because I usually just do one per day. I do tend to break up step #4 into even smaller mini tasks, so that can also add some days onto the process. The key is this: I break up each task to take up so little time that I don’t feel like I need to procrastinate it, and by the end it feels as if the post has written itself (almost).
So here are my five steps laid out over the course of a week:
1. Coming up with an Idea
Day One: First, let me say, the best way to do this is to have an editorial calendar of ideas for your posts. The truth is, for my clients I do, but for my own blog I usually don’t, so this becomes my first task. That’s it for day one: You just have to come up with the topic for your blog post.
If that is a huge stumbling block for you, read this post to get some blog post ideas. If it is still killing you, break this task down into even smaller tasks like “Look through the NY Times for health-related news” or “Look at WebMD for blog post ideas to adapt.”
2. Gathering Sources
Day Two: Make a list of all the places you are going to get hard evidence to support your blog post. I will often go onto PubMed for the latest research on my specific topic. If you got your idea from someone else’s blog post, podcast, or article, gather all the names and links to the original research they sourced.
You can also do this IRL instead of online. Gather a text book or journal and bookmark the page you want to cite from.
3. Taking notes from Your Sources
Day Three: You should at this point have all the links to your sources in one place or laid out on your desk. Then, one by one go through each and write down the evidence or ideas you want to put across in your post.
I like to make sure I have my notes all in one place clearly labeled with the source so that I can easily go back to the source when I am writing and can also easily provide a link for my readers.
4. Writing a Draft–50 words at a time
Days four through six: This is the absolute WORST step for me, so I break it up into even smaller steps over a few days.
Now, you might be thinking, “At 50 words a day, over the course of three days, that makes just 150 words, and that is a pretty short post.” I rarely ever write posts that short though. Mine are usually around 600 words and that is because I almost always over-shoot the 50 words a day.
That is the beauty of Stephen Guise’s idea. I just tell myself I need to get 50 words done and that enables me to face it. If I made 200 words the minimum, I would procrastinate for sure. The biggest hurdle for me, and probably for a lot of people, is getting started and that teeny tiny goal makes me feel like “heck yeah, I can do just 50 words” and that gets me started.
If 50 words sounds like a lot, then I say break it down to 25 words or even 10. Whatever works to get you to the page. Once you are there, momentum will help you the rest of the way. Keeping to this, there are days when I only do 50 words. I literally use a word-count checker and stop there. If you think you won’t be able to do much more than that a day, then just plan on starting a little earlier.
5. Editing your Draft
Day Seven: This is the easy part for me. Editing mode is the most comfortable for me. I think that is why I procrastinate the writing so much because it is hard not to edit as I write. Read this post for more on that.
Even though this step doesn’t cause me pain, I still save it for another day because I need to let my post rest before I can look at it again with fresh eyes.
Hey, I just realized this post is now over 1000 words. I started with about 300 words today, aimed for just 50 and look how much I did! I am telling you, if I had started out with those 700 words as a goal for today, I would not have done any of it, and I’d be suffering from a lot of guilt and stress right now.
I like to remind myself what Stephen Guise says, “Doing a little bit is infinitely bigger and better than doing nothing.”
Searching for Mr. Write: What to Look for in a Medical Content Writer
Why Good Clinicians Make Good Medical Bloggers
Me, Myself & the Editor: How to Edit Your Posts
Content vs. Copy: Treat Your Medical Blog Like a Magazine
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