How to Get Writing Started Right Away

“Language is the lawyer’s scalpel. If he cannot use it skillfully, he is apt to butcher his suffering client’s case.” Legal writing is hard to learn, which takes time and practice. Getting writing started is not always an easy task to do.

 “There is no easy, simple, cookbook-like formula for writing well. When you write – and in every other part of the practice of law – you will be confronted continually with a range of choices about what to do. And your success as a lawyer will depend on your ability to understand choices available and to select wisely among them.” 

As you start writing a first draft, you will put your thoughts on pages. However, it is not easy sometime to get started, even with a single thought and experienced writers. When running into this difficulty, what should we do to overcome it, here are some strategies that can be learnt.

1. Do something else unrelated for a while

Walk around, take a cup of water, wash dishes, do laundry, while your unconscious will continue to work on the first draft. After a while, ideas will pop into your conscious mind unexpectedly, and you will need to sit down and starting writing again. For some lawyers working on different matters at the same time, start working on other matters unrelated to the intended matter could help.

As we work with deadline, doing something else cannot go on for too long. Do not procrastinate writing every minutes that you count.

2. If the beginning is blocking you, start somewhere else

The beginning of a document is the hardest part to write, even in each of the document, the first paragraph is often the hardest to write. The reason is that if you are not sure exactly what you are going to say, you will not know how to present it. The beginning could be written later in the process with a better quality.

You also look over your outline and revise it or write many small passages and then stitch them together to create the whole document.

3. Rethink your outline

You may be blocked because the outline does not work well, which can tell you that your outline does not give you a good structure on which to build the document. But you might have a fine outline and be blocked for other reasons. Be careful with rewriting your outline.

4. Do not expect the perfection in the first draft

Keep reminding your-self that the first draft is the least important part of writing as you can fix and perfect it during the rewriting process. It is not easy at all due to limited time and pressing need to get the first draft completed. But this practice helps enhance carefulness and thoughtful thinking.

5. Use writing to reduce your fear

Working with tight deadline creates a lot of anxiety. Starting writing whatever come first to your mind could help reduce anxiety and keep you working steadily until you are finished.  Doing so also helps avoid writer’s procrastination and break this cycle in their writing habit.

6. Separate yourself from distractions

A lot of temptation around you could distract your attention and keep you away from your writing. Move to other places to work and prevent distraction from happening as soon as it just gets started.

In addition to the six strategies provided, each can create their own habit or tactics of overcoming writer’s block.

Bui Tien Long (Rudy)