How to Make the Most of Hard (Winter) Times

Infomama hates winter.

Slop and slush and sodden spray;
Slip and slide and scowl.
Gloomy, gritty, grimy day;
Grumble, groan, and growl.
Wan and winter-weary woe;
Blizzards, brash, and blust’ring…

But winter is unavoidable; we’re right in the middle of it here in the Midwest. And grown-up people don’t whine about the inevitable; they deal with it.

So in the interest of supporting maturity and promoting effective infowriting even during hard times,  let’s talk about three writing lessons you (and I) can learn from driving in gloomy, icy, depressing, and dangerous weather.

Keep trying until you get up that icy hill.
Have you ever been stuck in the middle of of writing an important piece? Since it’s the kind of thing you usually crank out as a matter of course , you never met one you couldn’t handle. Until now.

Now you’ve hit a slippery patch. Maybe a beginning that simply has no traction. Or a tricky transition that spins you out in the wrong direction. You may find that you’ve written yourself into an impassable snow bank and you have no logical next paragraph.

Back up. Work through the tricky, muddled part word by word, if necessary. Check the grammar. Evaluate the word choice. Take another look at the logic. Keep working until it feels right. You’ll know when you have traction.

Map a route to a clearly defined destination.
Winter is no time for joyriding. And infowriting is not a task for the aimless. To avoid getting lost in a blinding blizzard of words, be very intentional about every one. Make sure you know what you’re doing before and while you’re doing it.

Every infowriting task, by definition, has a clearly defined, user focused purpose –to help readers get work done. To reach that destination successfully:

  • Specifically define what you want your readers to do.
  • Craft every word with the end in mind.
  • Don’t take side trips.

That leads to the final lessons in this little quick reference post…

The #1 rule? Pay attention.
Especially in low visibility, high -challenge conditions like winter driving and difficult writing assignments. Lack of attention and intention can very easily end disastrously, with writing that wastes  the reader’s time (best case) or steers the reader away from her desired goal (worst case).

Let’s wrap up with rule #30: Avoid skids.
The experts say the best way to avoid skids (and stay out of trouble on the road generally) is to drive smoothly. RTA says this:

True professionals drive so seamlessly that you do not feel anything when they shift, turn, or brake. Plan ahead, watch carefully, and slow down … no matter what the road’s surface condition is, skids are caused by driver error.

A good writer, like a good driver, is a smooth operator.  She starts with panache and power and glides smoothly into high, navigating from one point to another easily. No sharp turns. No hard acceleration, no sudden braking. No skids.

A good writer, like a good driver, gets that way through practice. And winter is a great time to practice both skills, preferably in a safe place, like an empty parking lot…or a writing journal…while we wait for spring.

Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.” (Pietro Aretino)