Top writing tip – go for a walk

You know that feeling when you’ve written yourself into a corner in your blog post, presentation, thesis, or another type of document? Here’s a tip that’s helped me often to get past the corner: Go for a walk!

Take an energetic stroll. In the bush, on the beach, whatever suits you. Don’t consciously think about the problem in your document. If your brain comes up with a thought, toy with that thought in a semi-interested manner. Follow where it goes. Be open to its consequences even if they involve throwing away an entire section of your presentation, redoing some research, changing the direction of your thesis.

The thing is, your subconscious is probably right. Often, it’s bringing to the surface a feeling that you’ve had for a while. That niggling worry that something’s not quite right with the document, but you haven’t had time to go down the rabbit hole of investigation, or are perhaps too timid to follow the White Rabbit to an unknown world of randomly shrinking and expanding presentations. 🙂

While you’re on the walk, write yourself a note about your musings. Right then and there, in the bush or on the beach. I send myself emails, sometimes a series of them. A note on a scrap of paper would do too. Make sure you capture the actual words of your thoughts, because they encapsulate the insight that you’ve come to.

When you get back to your desk or your computer, save your work in its current state. Then remodel it, based on your new insights.

This happened to me recently. I’d mapped out a presentation then spent weeks working on its separate sections. A couple of days ago I read through a section I’d planned a while ago, which I’d thought would be the centre piece of the presentation. Oh no, it sounds out of place, uninspired, weird even. How can I adapt the rest of the material so this section works?

I went for a walk, watched the birds, admired the budding trees, wrote myself some emails. The end result was that I removed the worrisome section and integrated some of it into the rest of the presentation. The entire concept of the document had developed and moved beyond its erstwhile centre piece.

It’s a bit like those fictional characters who take a story in directions the author hadn’t originally designed.

Top writing tip - go for a walk

I took this picture (above) at Snoqualmie Falls, near Seattle WA.

About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 20 November 2015, in technical writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Thank you for this post. I am often stuck staring at my computer screen when writing a paper or completing an assignment with what seems like no way to break through. I am always concerned that what I am going to write will come across wrong. I think that my worries about grades cloud my thinking.

    I will try to use your suggestion to take a walk to see if I can clear my head. I gather that you carry some kind of paper pad and pencil with you on those walks. I am sure that I can find something small and portable to carry with me.

  2. Hi Sarah, I have benefited a lot these couple of days from reading your blog. I want to thank you for your writing from the bottom of my heart.
    I am a tech writer from Malaysia and at this part of the world, technical writers profession are not well known and I often get asked what I am doing :p

    There is no park or beach nearby my work location. Can I cound shopping as a way to distract from work? 🙂

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