Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Strategic-PlanningRevision is at once both the best of times and the worst of times.  If you are tasked with writing the strategic plan for your organization/ministry, then you will be dealing with all the challenges of writing a public document.  It may sound overly dramatic, but the quality of your work will finally be judged by your ability to revise!  So let me give you some tips that will ensure a more pleasurable experience as well as a premium product.

  • Accept the fact from the beginning that no word you write is holy, that everything may be discarded and/or replaced. Perhaps the most common mistake of inexperienced writers is to assume that their first efforts are their best.  Their virgin words feel more natural, more authentic, somehow more purely inspired.  The truth is that most first offerings should be trashed. An experienced writer knows this is true and assumes it will happen, whereas inexperienced writers are offended that their words were not taken seriously.  Please, get your head around the idea that much of what you write will be replaced with better writing—perhaps multiple times. 
  • Revision means “re-visioning” your writing.  You have to look at your writing again in order to do revisioning properly. That means reading your writing as if you had not written it, which is very difficult.  Often to gain this degree of objectivity, you have to let it sit for a day or two and then come back to it.  Having enough time to let writing sit often seems like a luxury, but you can help yourself if you will not procrastinate the writing/revisioning so that you do not increase the pressure on yourself. 
  • Let other people read it and ask them to mark any place they have to stop and re-read something.  You can use this tip as well when you are revising. Anytime you “stumble” in your reading or you have to go back and re-read a portion, mark that for certain revision.  If others will do this for you, it will also help with the needed objectivity.
  • Let others read your draft for content and clarity. Ask those people who are the best writers or best communicators AND those who are best informed in the content area about which you are writing.
  • Determine who will do the final proofreading.  If you are not a detail person, one well versed in grammar and punctuation, then you MUST find someone who is and have them make final corrections.  These are not likely the same people who read for content and clarity.
  • As the final author, you have the final say, BUT you are foolish if you don’t pay attention to every suggestion and every correction.  If you don’t have a marvelous reason for rejecting a suggestion, you should probably adapt it to your text.  The same is true for grammar and punctuation suggestions.
  • You are not really finished until . . . well, most experienced writers never quite know when they are finished. They just know when they need to stop. Of course, you are letting your leadership team and your board read as you write, so they will be coming with suggestions each time you let them read it.  When I feel like what is done should be done, then I tell my Readers that this is the final draft unless they find some glaring typo or major grammatical error. Such an ultimatum will usually stop those who continue wanting to add new objectives or new ideas to every draft they read.

If you follow these suggestions, your written products will not only be better, but your writing will improve.  The more you write, the better your writing becomes.  Experienced writers often incorporate some of these tips as they write, so they appear to write with much less time spent on revision.  I can assure you that earlier they have accumulated the same number of hours that you need. 

Learn to love revision, not dread it, and your writing will become prodigiously better!

Next:  Producing the final draft of the strategic plan

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Strategic-PlanningNothing about writing is harder than starting!  Everything is more important, the time of day is all wrong, the computer just keeps jumping over to Free Cell, and every interruption is welcomed!  And if you don’t write regularly for any reason, starting a writing project is even harder!

Here are some general writing tips to help you get started.

  • Set aside a time that works for you, when you will be uninterrupted for at least an hour.  Even here in my office with fifteen people who could walk in the door at any time, I just announce to them that when my door is closed, please do not disturb me except for something really, really important.  Other people go to Starbucks or another place they can be anonymous. At a time in my life when uninterrupted time was even more rare, I stayed up later than everyone else in the family on nights when I had to write.
  • Start with what you know best.  We were in the middle of work on our financial model at LST, so the very first piece of the outline that I attacked was the part I was working on every day anyway.  I could, for the most part, just write from the information already available to me.  That was Part 1, but Part 5B of the outline was something that we had been working on since February, so it was also easy to write. 5B was the second part of the outline that I finished.  Write what you know best, what you are already working on, or what you have the most information about.  That makes starting much easier.
  • Divide and conquer.  Break your task down into small parts.  Instead of thinking about writing a 30-page strategic plan, I sat down and wrote one-half page on a new website!  Instead of a tome, I just needed to write on six objectives—and most of those objectives were broken down into three or four sub-points, so I could just write on one sub-point at a time and feel like I had made great progress! It was not until I finished that I knew our plan would have thirty pages.  I just added all the small parts together one day–and there it was.
  • Just start.  Sit down, turn on the computer, put the Objective number at the top of the page . . . and start writing . . . doesn’t make much difference if it is good writing or if it is even on the subject. What you are doing is just getting into the groove.  After a few minutes of this, stop, see if you’ve said anything worthwhile—and if you have, cut that and paste it on to a new page and this time start writing on the topic, using the good of what you have already written.
  • Don’t edit yourself!  Very few writers can write creatively and edit themselves at the same time.  This means, don’t worry about spelling and grammar, about outlining, underlining, centering, fonts, or anything else at this point.  First, just write.  Editing will come later in the process. If you start worrying about receive or recieve you will never get past the first paragraph.

Your goal is to get a draft written!  A draft is just a first attempt. If you accept from the beginning that you will change what you’ve written when you do your revision, your editors will change it, your leadership team will change it, your board will change it—it’s going to be changed many times before its finished, so don’t think you’ve got to get it right the first time!  Just get it written.

Next:  Revision is a necessary part of the writing process, so we’ll talk next time about the hard work of revising your writing.

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God Speaks In a Whirlwind!

Paul writingThe last ten weeks have been a whirlwind. Having lived in Texas and Oklahoma for most of my life, I know that we are in tornado season, so perhaps acknowledging a whirlwind season is really a poor lead—but it is the truth.

I suspect even mentioning the whirlwind is more of an apology—at least a confession—to you for a lengthy season of spotty writing.  I actually love writing these posts and to have been as irregular as I have been during this season makes me feel rather undisciplined.

Two essentials—at least for me—have been scarce: reading and two hours.  Writing is an outpouring, but necessary to outpouring is inpouring. I often wonder as I write if the biblical writers knew they were writing Scripture–with a capital S?  Do you think the Apostle John thought: “Well, the Bible needs at least one really short, simple book to balance that theological tome that Paul wrote to the Romans, so I’ll just write a 3 John.”

Or did he really just sit down early one morning—like I’m doing right now—make himself a cup of coffee and think, “I better write to Gaius. I’ll be going there shortly and I need to begin setting the agenda of what I want to do during our visit”?

I’m pretty convinced John’s letter was a simple letter, perhaps only one of several that he wrote that day—his day of catching up on correspondence.  Was it inspired? Of course it was!  But wasn’t the promise that Jesus made to them that the Spirit would give them words of truth? Peter expressed it this way, “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God” (2Peter 4:11). Doesn’t that expand inspiration beyond just the Twelve?

Do you really think that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John suddenly had a tingly feeling or their quill started glowing when they were writing holy Words?  I don’t think so.  I think whenever they wrote—even their daily correspondence—they were writing as people who were always filled with the Spirit of God, who were always living their lives in His service, and who always found their words and chose to speak as those who speak the very words of God.

And shouldn’t we who are Christians do the same!  We have the same Spirit, we have the same commission, and we have the same task: “we believe, therefore, we speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13).

OK, so there went my first excuse!  I take it back. God has not been slack in pouring into any of us enough Spirit or words to share with others.

It takes me approximately two hours to write and publish each of these posts.  In a perfect world, these are two uninterrupted hours!  I often steal these hours early in the morning before I go to the LST office and start the day.  When we are traveling a lot, as we have been the last ten weeks, I will go to the hotel lobby to write while Sherrylee is getting dressed.

I don’t like to squeeze writing into too tight a confine, and I don’t like to write in bits and pieces. It’s hard to come back to some thought with the same passion or tone.

(I wonder if that explains why Romans is so easily divided into very different sections:  Paul had to take breaks and go visit some synagogue in Corinth or settle some dispute among the Christians, and when he came back, his mind had moved to a different place.)

Some dear friends collected the series of posts I wrote on “Raising Kids With A Heart For Missions” and published them in a little book.  I was very honored that they thought so highly, but I found myself in an awkward position of receiving a lot of credit that I didn’t deserve.

First and foremost, most of the ideas in the little book were first spoken or conceived by Sherrylee sometime early or during the child-rearing years of  our marriage.  Of course, we talked and shared them—and they were a gift to me and to our children—but she was my teacher!

Secondly, our marriage and our children—are all gifts of God, so whatever I have learned and all that I have experienced are not mine. I am not the originator, the creator, even the first recipient.

All of my insights, all of my experiences–all the words I have to say are His first: “In Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

. . . I feel better now. I’ve confessed my undisciplined negligence, I’ve admitted my plagiarism, and I’ve pointed any of you who are still reading back to God our Father, Jesus His Son, and the Holy Spirit, our Giver of Words.

That’s a good start for this day.


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