Iterative writing: Taking an agile approach to content generation

Posted March 31, 2016 in by

I’m going to go out on a limb and make a bold request: Let’s all agree to stop trying so hard on content creation. Now I’m not saying we should throw strategy out the window and push out crap content that no one cares about. Rather, we should stop letting good ideas wither on the vine because we’re so concerned with perfection. And to do so, we should take a page from software developers’ handbook and take a more agile approach to content creation.

Iteration, not perfection

There’s a movement in software development to adopt an “agile” methodology of creation—one that breaks a project into multiple iterations, or “sprints,” and provides multiple opportunities for reviews and revisions. The idea is that by having the chance to react to changes in strategy or fix minor bugs or kinks early on, you save yourself the trouble of fully developing the project and then having to backtrack or, worse, start over.

As content creators, we should mimic this agile approach and stop trying to get everything right on the first try. It’s easier said than done, of course; in fact, I’ve restarted this blog post at least three times already. But there’s a lesson here: Shifting our mindset away from “Everything has to be PERFECT” to “Well, it’s all there—now how can we smooth it out?” will lead to better content produced more quickly.

I say it’s time to make that shift. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Just get it out. If you find yourself getting stuck on a sentence or trying to perfect a paragraph, just write something imperfect and keep going. You can come back later! It’s fine, I promise!
  2. Call in some backup. Once you get your rough draft down, send it over to someone you trust to help you smooth the edges and polish it up. It’s difficult to edit your own work, so having another (objective!) set of eyes to review your work is a must.
  3. Live by Ross Gellar rules. Be willing to pivot! If you struggled with a point you’re making, and your reviewer is having the same concerns, it’s probably a sign that you need to go in a different direction or come at it from a different angle.
  4. Rinse and repeat. Taking an iterative approach to writing can be uncomfortable at first, but if you can learn to trust the process, you’ll find that it will probably get easier each time you sit down to write.

Do you have any tricks for getting over the hump? Share them in the comments!

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