Remember that time when I started a series prompted by Diane’s question how to boost her creativity after being a long-time technical writer? It started with this post and moved on to this one and then I went missing.
Well, I’m back, and this time, I’d like to talk about the writing part. See, when you work all day writing technical stuff, paying attention at all times to use the exactly correct word and writing sentences that carry on for five lines at a time, it’s sometimes hard to snap out of that groove.
Because that’s exactly where you are. You’ve been on a single channel for a while, deeply immersed in the subject of the technical document you’re producing, sometimes trying hard to be sure a number of different elements are all coming in on time. Even on the drive home, your brain may be buzzing with ideas of how to make the document better, more persuasive, more engaging.
Snap Out of It
Of course you come home and play with the family for a while – maybe it’s dinnertime, maybe movie night, you know how to break yourself out of work mode and into casual mode well enough I bet.
But then when you sit down to write again that evening, or maybe the next morning, all that comes out is this technical speak. Your characters are all speaking in grammatically correct English and you find yourself explaining just how every technical tool they have at their disposal works.
If you’re not careful, you end up with a number of how-to manuals connected together by a frame story.
Instead of beating yourself up because the words won’t come out right, it’s important to take extra time to help your brain snap out of tech-speak.
Okay, if you’re in the middle of a big project that’s consuming your brain all that much, it might be better to go ahead and let your creative projects wait a little while. Changing your mental channel at this point could actually be counterproductive to your overall goals. You could get to work in the morning and start writing an important piece of your project in the voice of that snarky adolescent shapeshifter you came up with last night.
Generally speaking, it’s better to only work on one all-consuming project at a time.
These tips are more to help you in those grey areas in between – after the initial creative passion for that shapeshifter project has been mapped out and while you’re doing more routine functions at work.
How Do You Change Channels?
When I’m struggling to get my technical voice to take the night off, there are several things that work to snap me from technical world to creative world. Truthfully, spending time playing with the family is usually enough to get me thinking in a creative way.
A weird thing happens when I place my fingers on the keyboard, though. It’s like there’s an automatic academic filter installed somewhere between my brain and my fingers. Here are a couple of things that help break the pattern:
- Freewriting – usually handwritten in a journal, I write three pages of random thoughts, trying to just record thoughts or sensations as they happen and allowing myself to expand or explore them a bet.
- Mimicking – choosing one of my favorite novels, I transcribe a few pages of dialogue between characters (strangely, transcribing description doesn’t really work)
- Exploration – again forcing the academic filter to shut off for a while, I freewrite through the keyboard, usually talking to myself about a scene or character in the work in progress that I’m struggling with or want to know more about
So I’m curious, do you ever struggle with these issues? How do you break from one thought pattern to another?