(The second of a multi-part series on cutting the waste out of writing.)
Using lean manufacturing to look at my writing has been an eye opener so far. I started with a “value stream map,” which is basically a diagram of the process and how it flows. Take a look at your writing process from start to finish to see if there are any hangups along the way. Use a pencil, white board or similar erasable way of writing this down. I wrote everything out on Microsoft OneNote 2010.
I’m sure you can see where the issues are below:
The whole thing is pretty much a mess. It works, but it is horribly inefficient. I’ve got a black hole of waste in the center where I get distracted with everything and call it “research.” I also wait around for the mood to strike. I edit and rewrite while I’m writing, which delays the process further and requires more than one break. I’m so fed up with writing by the end that I go back to doing the fun stuff instead of working on the novel or short story.
Now make a second value stream map detailing your ideal flow. Here is mine:
This is a heck of a lot more straight forward. By having a calendar of posts I don’t have to think about what to write about. Taking the distractions out of the research will require me to stay focused. Writing it all out first will make sure it gets done. Setting it aside will give me time for the break and give me fresher eyes for the rewrite or edits. Adding to the calendar after I finish writing will keep me from getting distracted before writing. Hopefully this will give me more time to do some actual writing.
One major hang up with any task is the tendency to try to group everything together. Lean manufacturing calls it batch processing. Writing, editing and rewriting at the same time is actually keeping me from finishing the post faster. By batching it, I’ll write and edit the same paragraph three or four times before moving on to the next paragraph. Is it a finished product after that? No. I don’t know what the end will look like when I start and I might have to change the beginning when I’m done. I go back and reread the post after I finish anyway. In the time it takes me to write, edit and rewrite the same three sentences four times, I could have written twelve sentences.
If I were to write, edit then rewrite, the process would go a lot faster. I would have it all written in one fourth of the usual time. I would have a better idea of what the entire post is about so I could rewrite more effectively. I would also only have to edit one sentence one time instead of four or five.
Tomorrow’s post will further detail the waste in writing by defining the muda, mura and muri.