56 years ago, one of the greatest songs of all time was written. ‘Yesterday’ is the most covered song of all time, yet through most of its development, the Beatles only knew the song by the working title ‘Scrambled Eggs’. It is the perfect example of not allowing one issue stopping you from progressing an idea and can be used by writers and content marketers to speed up their processes.
The internet is full of articls from people that talk about writers’ block and I’ve worked with a lot of clients that say they struggle to write content. The reasons fall into two categories — lacking ideas or struggling to articulate part of the article or concept. Lacking ideas I’ll save for another day, today let’s focus on what to do when you are stuck partway through an article.
The tune for ‘Yesterday’ came to Paul McCartney in a dream during the filming of ‘Help!’ in 1965. He woke and immediately composed the song on a piano in his room. But he didn’t have the lyrics straightaway, fortunately, he and John Lennon had a technique they used when developing new songs, which is part of why they are one of the most successful songwriting partnerships of all time, as well as one of the most prolific.
Rather than sit and desperately try and come up with the lyrics, potentially losing their flow and getting frustrated, they would put anything in place and move on to something else, waiting until they felt they had the right lyrics come to them. With ‘Yesterday’ they used scrambled eggs. In fact, Paul originally wrote about how he loved a pair of legs, but not as much as scrambled eggs!
Total nonsense of course, but the point was that it enabled him to move on to other areas, coming back to finish the lyrics several months later on a drive to a villa in Portugal — but that’s a story for another day.
The first use of this technique is to put in a placeholder, like scrambled eggs, into your article, marketing content, book — whatever you are working on. It could be an entire chapter/idea or it might just be a phrase you want to get just right to explain your point. I know from personal experience the frustration when you know exactly what you are trying to say but struggle to articulate it precisely.
The most frequent example is when you are looking for a better word to use. Maybe you feel the one immediately in your mind is not descriptive enough, could be that you’ve already used it too much in the article or maybe it’s just a word you don’t like. Put the word you immediately thought of into the article, highlight it so you won’t forget to come back to it, then move on to the rest of the article.
This allows you to remain in the flow of the article rather than lose your train of thought, whilst you try and perfect one word. You will always go over the story later to edit and review, so save this troubling word for then, when your mind is better trained on fixing problems like this. It’s also possible that in the meantime, maybe whilst finishing the rest of the article, a word comes to mind.
By Robyn Mackenzie
Work on other projects
The other use of the scrambled eggs approach is to move directly onto another piece of work. Might be another article, could be a different job entirely — maybe doing the washing up.
The key is that you get stuck on something and rather than dwell on it or even try and complete the rest of the work, you move off to something else entirely. Only come back to it when an idea comes to mind that will smash through the blockage.
It is a trick you can use generally when planning any working day. Start off on the most important thing because if you get stuck, you have the time to stop, take a break and then come back to it later in the day. The issue people often give themselves is putting off starting time-sensitive or critical work and thus when they start work, they have no choice but to persist with it, because they don’t have the luxury of a time break.
Work on multiple projects at once
Something that will help you with all of the above ideas, is working on multiple projects at once. Here are a few examples of how it can help.
If you are responsible for delivering content for your business’s marketing, build up at least a month’s worth of content ideas at the same time and try to produce the content in longer sessions. By doing this, you are writing in a flow but you are also able to move onto a new article idea if you’ve got stuck on the first one
If you are writing for your own blog, have different ideas in a writing planner. Don’t rely on coming up with a new idea each time you sit down and keep a list of ideas that you constantly add to. It will speed up your writing and allow you to switch if you hit a block
If you are writing a book, make sure you have the chapter plan written out, then you’ll be able to switch between them. Another great trick is to alternate between writing and research/planning. If you are struggling with a particular piece of content, then going off and researching a subject is a great way of clearing your mind
Three Minute Rule
Alongside idea generation, the biggest challenge most new writers list as their main problem is how to write for extended periods and produce a lot of content in a short space of time. The secret is not allowing little problems to stop you. It is vital that once you start writing, you don’t allow things to stop you that can be avoided, and getting stuck on the occasional phrase, idea or even chapter shouldn’t stop you.
If you find yourself getting stuck and scratching your metaphorical head for more than three minutes, then employ the ideas above and keep in the groove.
As Paul McCartney said, they are lovely legs, but I prefer scrambled eggs. Or at least, that’s how I’ve decided to end the article rather than think of something else…