My post for tech-communications professionals is up today at Steyer Associates web site: Procrastinating … or Preplanning?
I propose in that piece that for professional communicators, most “procrastination” is your brain begging for more preplanning time… though that begs the question:
How is “preplanning” different from regular old planning?
It’s a question of being ready to commit.
I’ve long posited that for any tech-writing project, there’s probably 25 solutions, and you want to concentrate only on the best 3 — then pick one and commit to action.
However, that’s not always so straightforward, whether for tech-writing, fiction, or other projects. Brenda Ueland, in If You Want to Write, presents critical ideas in her chapter, “The Imagination Works Slowly and Quietly.”
Following the “slow imagination” concept, preplanning is:
- Muzzy thinking time.
- A walk.
- Other physical activity while you percolate ideas down and back up through your less-conscious mind.
- Multiple guesses at the right pattern, structure, template, production methods.
- Better guesses at what you don’t yet know.
- Writing down known ideas—whether on sticky notes, index cards, a whiteboard, an outliner.
- Writing down guesses and questions.
- Discussing solutions with partners.
- Winnowing—Ordering and discarding ideas and tasks.
“Planning” feels like real work, because you can show yourself (or others) your progress.
“Preplanning” might feel like goofing off. If it goes on too long, it might feel like “writers block” (discussed earlier in Up on Blocks). However, if you relax into the Preplanning phase, you’ll realize that it’s a strong preventative elixir. The Preplanning stage of creative work:
- Helps you identify rabbit holes to avoid falling down.
- Gives you time to identify what you already know and to credit yourself with educated guesses about what you don’t know.
So, go for it. Dump the guilt: you are actively working. Your procrastination activities are actual achievements:
- Your garage / cupboards / desk are clean.
- You did your part to prevent crap work from getting out into the world.
In my case, while preplanning this week, I got my tax reports done two days early while percolating more on the ending to Monkey King Rides Again.
As shorthand, here are the resource links from my Steyer blog post:
Storyboarding for Technical Communications – the basics
Mind Map Art – inspiration
Making Things Happen – Scott Berkun’s seminal work
And here’s my piece on using tools to plan and manage a long narrative manuscript:
Curious Aside: While looking for the Brenda Ueland quote, I found several different editions, each with their own copyright. I linked to the Graywolf Press paperback, so you’ll have to hunt around if you want to find a “Look Inside” version. I find that Wilder Publications has a newly copyrighted version of the First Edition with this statement on the Copyright page:
I have email from a reader who couldn’t comment through the UI, so with her permission, I’m adding it here: