We’ve all been there
You know the situation: you have a bid to write, or at least a section of the bid at that moment, and you’re struggling to know what to write and how best to get your messages across. This is a scenario that we hear about frequently.
What’s the magic solution?
Jump-starting yourself out of writing inertia can be tricky, so it’s important to find easy ways around the problem. Here are some tips that we’ve shared with people and seen lead to great results, so it seemed only right to pass them on and know what you think. Please leave a comment if you want to add anything or share your own experiences. There’s never just one way – or, in this case, eight ways – of cracking a nut!
1 Give yourself a framework for your writing
Don’t start by writing. Instead, start by structuring your section headings to reflect the main messages you want to convey; the headings can change at any time, so you’re not locking yourself into a fixed structure (other than following a broad heading structure that mirrors the client’s questions). Preparing a writing plan is the starting point for excellent bid responses. It’s important to structure your high-level themes before starting on the detail of your responses to bid questions. Make sure your theme headings reflect the specific questions asked, and even present them in the same order if the flow and logic of your response aren’t compromised by doing so.
When faced with a big, open question such as, ‘Explain how you will ensure best value for XYZ’ or ‘Detail your approach to meeting critical programme dates’, you need to ensure that you structure the key themes that will add most value to your response. This will make the subsequent writing much easier, especially if you also list the important items that fall under each heading before you start writing. Planning your bid response in this way will make a profound difference to the quality of your final submission and to the ease with which you write it.
Writing plans are usually prepared after the bid team has held its win strategy planning session, a topic to which we’ll return another time. For now, we’re concentrating on the specific issue of how to overcome writing inertia, for which the writing plan is a highly effective tool.
2 Use a dictation recorder to capture key ideas
How often have you had great ideas for written material, only to forget them when the time comes to produce the writing? This is such a frustrating scenario because it opens up the possibility of submitting a bid without a number of key points you wanted to include. A handy tip for reducing this risk significantly is to carry a dictation recorder with you and record your ideas as and when they occur to you. You can download them onto your laptop, tablet or shared file area at any time, so you don’t lose them. When you re-read them later, you’ll probably think of even more relevant points worth including in your bid. The more ideas with which the brain is fed, the more ideas it will create. This approach is particularly effective if you put your list of ideas away for a day or two and then look at it again when your mind’s fresh, almost as if you’re reading your ideas for the first time.
3 Start the most difficult items earliest in the day
Have you ever heard of a book called ‘Eat That Frog’ by Brian Tracy? It’s a great read and is packed with ideas on how to overcome procrastination and rise to difficult challenges very effectively. The premise of the title is that we don’t like eating frogs so, if we have to eat them at all, let’s do so early in the day. That way, everything else to be done that day won’t be as bad as the first task; we’ll have tackled the hardest task first.
In much the same way, it’s good to start the trickiest bid response early in your working day. This will give you the best chance of ‘breaking the back’ of something you consider difficult and viewing everything else that day as less challenging, so easier to achieve.
4 Use mind mapping to chart your ideas and unlock your thoughts
One of the primary causes of writing inertia is not knowing how the various elements of a response should knit together. This means sentences become longer in an attempt to explain and justify points, then leading to difficulty unravelling the sentences to be shorter and easier to understand. This problem can be avoided by planning your bid response in the form of a mind map.
Mind mapping can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. It’s a straightforward way of mapping your thoughts and linkages between ideas, so you’ll find it easier to commit those ideas to writing when you come to start your document. The map also provides a convenient visual ‘tick list’ so you can keep track of points you’ve already mentioned and how to link them to what’s yet to come.
5 Read material outside your normal sphere of interest to trigger new thoughts
Keeping up to date with current trends and contemporary thinking in your field and others is a good way to trigger ideas for your bids. Provided your submission doesn’t veer off the course of the questions asked, it’s good to show a well-rounded awareness of what’s happening at high level in your field. By reading material outside your normal sphere of interest, you’ll have the chance to see how other professionals put themselves forward and promote their services, which may spark thoughts that could be useful for your own bids.
6 Do some exercise, eat good food and sleep well
‘A healthy body creates a healthy mind’ is a frequently heard expression in the writing world. Experience shows this to be true in so many ways. The choice of exercise is entirely a personal matter; the important aspect is to oxygenate the blood and enjoy some time away from the keyboard to free the mind. It’s a good idea to carry the dictation recording device at this time because all sorts of fresh thoughts enter the mind during exercise. You can always stop running for ten seconds to record a useful idea or make your recorded notes between sets of deadlifts. An added bonus of exercise is that it usually leads to improved sleep which, in turn, aids bid writing. The importance of quality sleep for clear thinking can’t be overestimated. A good diet will also help to improve sleep. As we all know, a balanced diet is important in life generally and that’s certainly true in the field of writing.
7 Unplug the internet when you’ve finished with it
When you’re in ‘the zone’ of your writing, it’s important to avoid distractions because you need to keep your thoughts ‘flowing’ and allow yourself the time to develop new creative ideas as they enter your mind. This is important during both the planning and writing stages of your bid, particularly the planning stage. Your planning time is your opportunity to let your mind roam freely and think of as many ideas and relevant points as you possibly can. Our experience from both bid writing and personal coaching shows that people invariably create more ideas and options in the absence of interruptions. With writing in particular, sitting at your keyboard, it’s all too easy to be distracted by emails, social media and online pop-ups, which break your chain of thoughts about your bid.
8 What you really mean is (WYRMI)
Do you ever find you know what you want to ‘say’ in a document but just can’t think of a succinct way of writing it? There’s nothing wrong with that and it happens to everyone. The important thing is to capture your idea at the time, write it in a longer format than you’d like, and highlight that paragraph or sentence for subsequent editing. It’s very likely that you’ll have a fresh perspective on that particular text if you come back to it later in the day or another day altogether. Write the words in a very simple and long way, recording exactly what you really mean, and then you’ll be able to edit the text when you re-visit it later. Editing existing written material is usually easier than writing it in the first place, so you won’t take long to trim your words to create sentences with impact.
We’d love to hear from you, so please share your own thoughts!