«return to Tip of the Month ListingMy “Chunking” Trick for Busting through Writer’s Block

By Casey Hibbard

Every so often (ok, rarely), I organize my office. Largely, that means taming my paper situation.

To make it easier, I make stacks and then fly through putting papers into their appropriate stacks: recycle, file, shred or take action on. Grouping like this makes the task go quickly and more mindlessly, and helps me overcome that overwhelmed feeling.

I find the same trick works with writing, because, let’s face it, every one of us runs into writing blocks at some point. No matter how much golden information you might have to craft a customer case study (or anything else), sometimes it’s tough to know where to begin. In fact, having a plethora of information can make it even more challenging. What should I include?

I admit, the hardest part of any case study project is getting started with the writing, with a blank page staring at me. Even after logging more than 1,000 case studies over the years, they don’t always flow onto the screen effortlessly. It can be an ugly slog. But fortunately, I’ve found a way to make it simpler.

Chunk Your Info

While a completed customer case study should be a flowing, engaging narrative, sometimes you have to break it down into its elements FIRST. Then work on the narrative later.

I practice what I call “chunking,” or organizing all the nuggets of information into logical groups. Imagine that you have four boxes:

• Box 1: The challenges or goals the customer faced
• Box 2: Why the customer chose the featured solution
• Box 3: What the solution looks like in the customer’s environment
• Box 4: The outcomes

To do this, I open a blank Word doc and write those four headings. Then I type in the pieces that fit into each of those four boxes. I don’t write full sentences, but rather, a few words for each idea. Then it becomes, effectively, an outline of the story.

If you think better with handwriting, actually draw four boxes on a piece of paper and write in bullets for pieces of the story.

Write the Sections

Then write each of the four sections. If you can’t write the first one in order, start with the section that you like best and progress from there. Just write each section fully until you’re happy.

This enables you to get 75 percent of your story down, giving you a sense of accomplishment and moving you forward.

Tie Together the Narrative

THEN go back and link it all together into a cohesive narrative to round out the last 25 percent. If you leave the sections in their “boxes,” it will feel blocky to the reader.

Read through and look for ways to link the various sections so that each sentence follows on the previous, as does each paragraph.

Show that the customer, in the end, achieved the goals stated at the beginning. Use connective phrases such as “To meet that objective,” or “to that end.” Reference earlier parts of the story as you go.

We can’t expect writing to always flow smoothly. The trick, as for anything in life, is to have strategies for moving forward anyway!