“Do nothing for five minutes!”
Isn’t that a brave opening to a lesson? This was trainer, Dannie-Lu Carr, at the start of Writing for impact and creativity, a Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) course which I attended last month.
I have long been teaching academics how to write for the Web, most recently in the Academic IT Services course ‘Creating a WordPress Site‘ which has an accompanying blog. What I learned in this CIPR course was more about how to overcome procrastination, the blank page, and writer’s block. By doing nothing for five minutes we experienced how long five minutes really is. In a way this was to remind how much we could actually achieve within that time. Also we discussed a range of techniques and tools to find five minutes regularly “to NOT concentrate” during the creative process, including the Outlook ‘out-of-office’ assistant; time management (e.g. Pomodoro anyone?); and assertiveness.
The way I normally structure my writing was soundly sideswiped by Danny-Lu who did not care for the inverted-pyramid approach. Maybe one can spot the decade that an article dates from by the way it has been written, just like with Web pages it easy to spot a site which has not been refreshed since 1999, 2009, or even 2015? Instead, we learned how to structure our piece of work, and thereby break down the task to overcome the obstructions to creativity mentioned in the previous paragraph. E.g.
- meaning map (like a mindmap);
- 4-mat learning styles;
- Five point structure based on Aristotle’s wisdom;
- Six thinking hats of De Bono
- Creative grids;
- The basic plots of literature;
- Maslow’s hierarchy of needs;
- The Crocodile;
- And even tabloid headline writing!
And so much more, in break-out groups which were mixed around between the tasks, which were relocated – once to the lush Russell Square gardens.
This course which tried to tap into ‘my creativity’ was a wonderful insight into many techniques I had never thought of applying before. I can see how to incorporate at least one or two into everyday writing tasks. However, the realist in me recognises that I did not use any of these to write this article, and I could see this omission quite clearly about half-way through. Some more time needed for reflection and to address my writing.
My first change will be to incorporate at least one of the newly learned structures in to the ‘brief’ I fill in whenever taking on a new task. In this way I trust I will approach writing in a more structured and effective way to engage the University audience, usually internal – i.e. our own staff, or students.