Get Unstuck and Get Started Writing Your Article

December 6, 2016

Here is an exercise to help when you are planning an article, or when the piece you have just written seems dry or otherwise uninteresting. It need not take much time, and can definitely energize your content.

When we are writing for a marketing purpose we tend not to think of imagination as being so important. But, unless you are filling out IRS forms, you are doing more than reporting just the facts-you are seeking to engage your readers. And in order to do this, it will help to have some more specific image in mind than “seniors” or “donors over $1,000.”

“Isn’t this going to take more time than I have?” you ask. In the first place, it won’t take all that much time. In the second place, The more life in your writing, the more persuasive it will be. Here’s how to start:

Once you are sure of your general audience, imagine two or three specific people who might belong to it. For example, if you are writing about your new cardiac care center, these might be an overweight man, a wife worried about her husband’s cholesterol, and a woman whose family has a history of heart disease.

Ask yourself some specific questions, starting with the sensory material (appearance, taste) that will get your imagination going. Time yourself-see what you can come up with in two minutes. Try these questions:

o What do they look like? Tall, short, fat, thin? Hair color and style?
o Favorite (or least favorite) colors and foods
o Exercise they do (if any), and how old are they?
o Do they drive a car (or ride a bike or use the subway)?
o Imagine them calling the cardiac care center for an appointment.

You’ll be surprised how, by holding these specifics in your mind, you can enliven your writing. The sensory items (colors, foods) can help you get started, and gradually a whole person will begin to emerge.

Consider the “overweight man,” for example. Using the items listed above, you might, in two to five minutes, come up with:

He’s a big man, about six foot four, heavy looking, and bald. He prefers to dress formally, in grays and browns, with bright ties. He likes exotic foods which he orders from catalogues, and doesn’t have a favorite color. He needs to quit smoking but is having trouble doing it, and has a treadmill which he rarely uses. He always drives his Prius to work. His doctor and his wife are both after him to take care of himself, and one day he reads your article about the new cardiac care center…

There is no need to write any of this down. Or, you can simply take a pencil and write notes on a scrap of paper. One absolute requirement: do not let your internal editor (remember, the one who is always saying “No that’s not right” or “This could be better”) get anywhere near while you are doing this! It’s just a game, to help you get started, and belongs to you alone.

Once you have a profile or two or three to work with, begin sketching out your article. Imagine your “overweight man” reading it, while his wife stands nearby. Perhaps one or two of your imaginary readers are sitting near your desk, eager to ask you questions. As you write, you’ll be responding to their interest and need, and the phrasing and details you come up with will have an energy and substance that makes your article persuasive and readable.

Copyright (c) 2010 Jane Sherwin. You may reprint this entire article and you must include the copyright info and the following statement: “Jane Sherwin is a writer who helps hospitals and other healthcare facilities communicate their strengths and connect with their readers.”

Copyright (c) 2009 Jane Sherwin, MBA
You may reprint this entire article and you must include the copyright info and the following statement “Jane Sherwin specializes in writing for health care institutions, including e-news and newsletters, annual reports, and web content.”

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