4 Tips to help you lose the stress and enhance your writing

At the 2017 TAA conference, Robert Barlow, author of 10 legal and business studies textbooks, shared “10 Tips to Enhance Your Writing & Take the Stress Out of Polishing Your Work”. As he presented his tips, a common theme of planning and preparation seemed to provide the key to reducing stress in the writing process.

Barlow shared foundational tips in grammar and style. He also shared ways to frame the destination of your manuscript around the needs of your audience and the style of your discipline. However, the four organization tips shared by Barlow – organize, research, scaffold, and review – were the key takeaways for managing stress throughout the writing process. We focus on his thoughts below.

1) Organize

The first tip defined organization as a three-part process of setting up, starting, and building momentum. Quoting Winnie the Pooh, written by A. A. Milne, Barlow shared that “Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.” By spending time setting up, or organizing before writing, the process has greater definition and resulting success with less stress.

“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.”
~ A. A. Milne

Set yourself up for success by developing a routine in a prepared workspace, with a defined purpose.

Once you have your writing environment established and a purpose identified, the next step is simply starting. To do so may require identifying and overcoming your writers’ block of perfectionism, self-consciousness, procrastination, or fear of failure.

When you have started, you must keep moving toward an achievable short-term goal. This goal generates momentum. According to Barlow, “Once you have momentum, you will want to keep writing.”

2) Research

The second organizational tip for reducing stress is to conduct effective research. Barlow used a quote from Dan Brown to remind the audience that “‘Google’ is not a synonym for ‘research'”. Effective research determines information needs, collects the information from primary and secondary sources, and then gives meaning to the data through analysis and interpretation. The result is a verification of facts leading to confidence in what you write.

“’Google’ is not a synonym for ‘research’” ~Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol

3) Scaffold

The third organizational tip is to use the scaffolding process to outline and plan the structure of the manuscript. In the scaffold, include a title and key ideas as they come to you. Once identified, organize those ideas in a logical sequence.

When the scaffold is established, the structure of the manuscript is developed, and you need only to fill in the blanks. By sticking to the scaffold, the writing process is more manageable, writing is concise, and it’s easier to stay on task.

4) Review

The last organizational tip is to develop a review process for evaluating your work. Step back, critically evaluate your results, observe from your audience’s perspective, reflect and rewrite. The renewed focus and break from writing will result in a polished result that improves satisfaction and reduces stress.

For the other six tips, watch Barlow’s entire session.