Three ways a household move is like good writing

Last weekend we helped some young relatives move into their first home, an experience that reminded me of the importance of friends (and muscles.) As the Advil started circulating through my bloodstream, it struck me that the common experience of packing up one’s belongings and moving to a new home is a lot like drafting a written document.

1. Planning. The art of packing a U-Haul is nothing to sneeze at. To make the most of your space (and to minimize re-arranging things), you need to do some serious planning. In writing, the planning step is often skipped, partly because we feel that we can make progress if we just start writing (just fill up that truck!) However, I believe that in about 99% of writing projects, some good upfront planning will actually make the process go quicker. Just sketch out the big picture (the textual equivalent of chifforobes and dining room sets, if you will). The little things can come later.

2. Knowing the neighborhood. I grew up on the West side of Cincinnati, as did our new homeowners. But the new house was on the East side. As I was looking across the back yard, I saw my first ever Lazarus Lizard, a descendant of four wall lizards that were smuggled in from Italy in the 1950s. We don’t have Lazarus Lizards on the West side; it’s uniquely an East side phenomenon. Who knew?

Keep the Lazarus Lizard in mind when you write for a new audience. Even if you have written for similar audiences, it’s a good idea to try to uncover the unique things a new reader knows or cares about. Often a charming or interesting fact is just around the corner!

3. Getting help. My clever young relatives created a Facebook event and invited friends to help them move. We had upwards of 20 people at any given time, in all stages of fitness and age (and did I mention it was 90 degrees that day?) Because of this group of friends, the move went quite smoothly. Sharing our experiences and helping each other made the task more efficient, as well as more enjoyable.

In writing, there are always people who have the knowledge or expertise that you need. Let them help you; and if you are in a position to help someone else, pay it forward.

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