Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Weekly writing coach: How do you write about problem-solving?

Try this test on for size: Get a Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle.  Give yourself two hours. Finish as much as you can, and then write about it.

"It" can be anything: The puzzle and what you learned about it, how you went about attacking it, whether you succeeded or failed or stalled, which words proved most elusive, whether you peeked at the answers.

The point here is not necessarily to finish the puzzle. Some of you will, and you'll write about what a breeze it was (please don't show that one to me).  Many of you won't. But you'll learn a lot, in the writing of it, about how you write about solving problems.  Do you gloss over steps, or follow and describe the directions lavishly? Do you get frustrated--and show it? Can others relate to your experience? Would I be able to solve the puzzle (or make a better stab at it) from reading your description?

Companies, nonprofits and research and educational institutions are asked to solve problems every day. Call it customer service, student affairs, public relations, engineering, maintenance, accounting.  How well your company or organization solves problems is critical to success--and to gaining and keeping your key audiences.  Make your writing about problem-solving the kind that, well, helps me solve problems. 

This is a writing exercise, so don't follow the charming example from the frites and fries blog, which recreated a frustrating crossword attempt with pictures, including what was consumed during the effort.

If you did well with this test and published it somewhere, leave a link in the comments. I'd love to see your examples--and so would everyone else.

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