Each week I set aside time to good writing, but its not the same when each day there are technical documents and scrum artefacts to be prepared. I can’t guarantee to get my writing done. It just doesn’t work like that. Good productive writing takes time, space and zero distractions - even when its a business process or project brief.

Technical Writing & the Writers block

You hear about those creative types in marketing, you may know a few entrepreneurs or inventors who have a spark of genius. You know they can’t turn on the creative juice and just come up with something brilliant. The pressure is always on them to come up with something new or even more brilliant - which is why something new from Google can be doomed to failure - it’s got to be even more brilliant.

It’s the same with writing, Some documents start out well and then come to a stop. No amount of will power can finish them, I’ve tried to force them to happen. It’s like death by PowerPoint– the 200 slide variety … you know its crap, everyone in the room has fallen asleep and no amount of pretty pictures or slide transitions can make it any better.

Creative Writing and technical writing can both suffer from Writer’s Block - usually in the case of technical writing, there are 4 factors conflicting

  • trying hard to stick to a format
  • too much waffle
  • too little time
  • writing because you have to

To demonstrate this point, a non technical writer was asked to prepare a functional specification for their client who has a well structured product development process. The document writer wanted to do nothing more then sit down and start coding - the client rejected the specification which almost put a halt to development of the project.

Projects, Business Processes and Artefacts

In Scrum and Agile Training you’ll hear people use the word Artefact which refers to any document that is kept for traceability. Typically a document is written to follow a structure - project initiation briefs, business requirements, functional specifications. Once written and approved these documents are dead, they become artefacts.

At least in Scrum, you have to secretly agree that a finished document is dead - the artefact is what will remain when the project is finished.

How to overcome the technical writing block

Technical writing is just like creative writing, given constraints of time, document layout and adherence to process - it can be awfully boring. It doesn’t mean your documents should be dull as a result. Follow your creative writing senses - do some research, make some notes, start half way through the document - if that works for you. Be sure to overcome the boredom and avoid being distracted by headers, footers, margins and gutters.

My secret tactic is to go out for lunch - if its a document that just has to be written, time apart will do you good. Even better then an hour for lunch, close the document and don’t look at it for 24hrs or a week. Come back and finish it at a later date.

Productivity Tip - Writers Block can be overcome

Writers block happens when writing for pleasure or for business. Writing well is a skill, so regardless of the document you are writing. Don’t waste your skill on dull, dead writing. Wake up your audience, give them a document worthy of a standing ovation.

Tags: scrum, writing

Read more from my blog for an introduction and quick tips on developing in Hugo or UCTD.

Meet the author

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Damien Saunders
An experienced management consultant and business leader interested in digital transformation, product centred design and scaled agile. If I'm not writing about living with UCTD (an autoimmune disease), I'm probably listening to music, reading a book or learning more about wine.