February 4

Why you should always write the introduction last


    It’s the classic image—a tortured writer, sitting at the computer, blank screen, blinking cursor, no words on the page—trying to write the introduction to his book.

    And we all think, “Writer’s block.”

    But, when you break it down, writer’s block is mostly writer’s fear—fear of explaining something the wrong way, fear of writing a sentence that sounds stupid, fear of using a tired metaphor, fear of your book not living up to all you have hoped for it.

    That’s the real rub, isn’t it? You have built up this book in your mind for months or years. Now you’re trying to write the introduction. What if it’s not good enough? And all the doubts circle in your mind until you’re too paralyzed to write a single, danged word.

    The problem is that you’re trying to start with the very beginning.

    Instead, bypass the beginning completely. Jump right into the content itself. Choose a story or topic that you know you’ll want to share in the book, and type that up, first. When you finish that first story or topic, just pick a second one. And on, and on.

    The trick to getting around the blank screen is to start with content that you know isn’t the beginning. You begin with Chapter 1 or Chapter 2, which has much less pressure around it.

    Besides, how can you possibly write the introduction to something that doesn’t exist, yet? How can you write the perfect lead-in introductory paragraph, when you don’t even know what the book is going to look like?

    Write the body of the book, first, then circle back and add the introduction last.

    What if you feel a compulsion to write the Intro first?

    Well, if you honestly feel like you can mentally move on to the content without some sort of intro, then type something out very quickly. Set a timer for 15 minutes, write an intro as fast as you can, and then force yourself into Chapter 1. Remind yourself that this is only a placeholder introduction, and that you’ll rewrite the “real” introduction later.

    In fact, you can use the placeholder trick for any text that’s making you freeze up. Is there a particular story or concept that you’re dreading writing because it’s going to be emotionally difficult or intellectually complicated? Take the pressure off. Just write the placeholder text—a simple, straightforward telling of the story or concept—and then move on. Assure yourself that it’s just a placeholder, and you’ll come back to fix it later.

    I use placeholders all the time, both in writing, business, even life.

    I can’t think of a title for my chapter? I don’t leave it blank, I just put in a placeholder title.

    I’m not sure what the outline is for one of my course modules? I don’t skip over the module outline, I just draft a quick placeholder outline.

    I don’t know what the sidebar for my website should look like? I just put in some placeholder texts and images that are relevant, even if not 100% perfect.

    I can’t design gorgeous slides for my webinar? I use some older templates as placeholders.

    I’m not sure what’s the perfect way to plan a week of family meals and grocery shopping? I slap together a placeholder plan and list.

    When you refuse to act because you’re not 100% sure what the perfect outcome should look like, you will sit, paralyzed, for an indefinite amount of time, until something forces you into movement.

    But, if you can lower the threshold to action, by convincing yourself that this placeholder text is only temporary, then you can begin moving and gaining true momentum. Sometimes the placeholder text, outline, sidebar, slides, and meal plan are operational for a while. Sometimes they actually stay, sometimes I change them, but I sure know that I get a heck of a lot more done because I allow myself to use placeholders in most of my life decisions.

    Tweet: Perfectionism is not doing something perfectly the first time. It’s putting something out into the world, and improving upon it, as you go. (<<< Click to Tweet that!)

    What about you? Is there some area of your writing, business, even life where you can use a placeholder?

    (It doesn’t have to be the perfect place to use a placeholder, just a placeholder to start using placeholders. ;) )


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