No matter how well you use techniques for research and planning before you write, there will be many times when your fingers hover over the keyboard, but your brain can’t get them to move.
One technique that I have been using for years (and more so than ever lately) has proved to be wonderful for overcoming this problem: recording conversations.
So if I am writing a case study, I will record the conversations I have with the product/service users that are talking me through the case in question. Or if I am writing a blog post that will be attributed to someone else, I will have a chat with them about the subject matter and record that too.
On almost every occasion, when I listen back to the recording I can transcribe it and edit as I go. Pretty soon, I get very close to having a proper draft of the case study, blog post or whatever else it is I am working on.
Because I am working from the expert’s actual words, the piece I write will usually be better than if I worked from my notes.
In fact, recording is much more effective than taking notes. Unless you are a very fast writer or know shorthand, you’ll never be able to get every word down – but it’s the details that note-taking often misses that will make for good content.
Here are some tips for getting the most from this technique:
Audio quality really matters
If the recorder on your phone works well then so be it. But you may need to get a dedicated audio recorder instead to make it easy to listen back to the conversations.
You may also need to invest in a good separate microphone. Again, it depends on what results you can get from the built-in mic on whatever equipment you use.
Try it for recording phone calls
I can record conversations with people I actually meet, but most of the conversations I have are by phone, so I have my tools for recording calls set up and ready to go with just a couple of buttons to press.
I put people on speaker phone and record via a mic into a digital recorder but you can get more sophisticated tools for this that link your phone straight to your PC.
Test, test and test
Do some dummy runs to make sure the equipment works. For the first few real recordings, do a little test and check via playback before you start.
Always keep checking that you are still recording as you go along. Trust me, devices stop working, batteries run out and recording media gets full. Don’t get so engrossed in the conversation that you don’t notice that you are still on ‘pause’ or that you have run out of disc space.
Take notes too
Just in case the recording fails and you notice too late, notes make a pretty good back-up.
Put your subject at ease
Make sure that the other party knows that this is just for your purposes and that it won’t be listened to by anyone else.
If you haven’t already done so, get recording – I’m certain that your writing will improve and that you'll find the process a lot easier too.