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"[T]he test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up, published in Esquire (1936)
As a conscientious consultant, you are an expert with a deep understanding of your industry. You understand the complexities and nuances others miss and know how they can impact your clients. Given your depth of knowledge, you might be tempted to pick a topic and just start writing.
Writing is not about the ink; it's about the think.
In addition to thinking about the topic, you must also think about how you will convey your insights and perspective to the reader. This step is crucial and often overlooked. But the more time you spend thinking about the structure of the piece you plan to write, the easier it will be to write it.
Get your head in the game.
Set aside some time to engage in deep work. Minimize as many distractions as possible, set the timer for 10 minutes, and get your ideas out of your head and onto the page. You can do a freewriting exercise, capture your ideas in a mindmap, draw a cartoon, or dump your thoughts onto the page.
There's no wrong way to do this, so do whatever works for you.
The point of this exercise is to get into the right headspace to get clear about what you want to say. By taking a little time to capture your ideas, you can filter out the head trash and focus on your core message.
Identify the point of the article.
Every article you write needs a clearly defined point. Knowing the topic you're writing about is the first step. Now, you must decide the angle from which you will approach that topic.
To ensure that every article you write builds your authority, captures your audience's attention, and adds your insights to the conversations they are having, conduct a SOAR analysis by answering the following questions:
Publications are looking for experts to provide their readers with actionable insights. Every article you write must change the reader's thinking, mindset, or behavior.
Equally important, every article you write, every speaking engagement you secure, and everything you do must enhance your reputation. The only way to ensure it does, however, is to be clear about the reputation you wish to build.
Create a container for your writing.
The SOAR analysis makes the point and angle of your article clear, but you still need to structure your thoughts. A simple outline creates a container for your writing and structures your article in a way that is clear, compelling, and easy for the reader to follow. You don't need to go into much detail; a brief statement followed by bullet points works fine. An article outline includes:
Business articles have a straightforward structure. But that structure is what allows you to unleash your natural writing style. Now, instead of trying to figure out what you want to say next while you're writing, you can simply fill each container with the appropriate information.
Write your shitty first draft. Quickly.
With a simple outline in place, it's time to write your shitty first draft. Set a timer for 20 minutes and fill those containers as quickly as possible. Your goal is to complete your first draft within the allotted time.
One of the benefits of quickly writing your first draft is that it shows you whether you've given enough thought to the piece. If your thinking is still muddled, it may be that the angle isn't quite right. If your thinking is clear, but you could make your point stronger, you may need to do more research.
Good writing meets your readers where they are and gives them the tools they need to get value from your writing. It helps your readers understand the complexities and nuances of a specific challenge so they can take steps to resolve it. And it positions you as a trusted advisor and authority in your industry.