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Hanging by a Thread

November 12, 2018



Sometimes, writing a new elearning script can be a long, painful process, with many fits and starts. Here’s a recent message thread that we found on Twitter; it shows how one self-employed instructional designer survived a difficult script-writing process. As it turned out, the right help was just a few tweets away.


Big ID’er – 8 hours ago

I’ve been working on this elearning script—about proper placement of surgical instruments in the operating room for O.R. technicians—for a half-hour, and I still haven’t got past the first sentence! Somehow, the course outline isn’t working for me. Can anybody help?


Bloom’s Tax Enemy - 8 hours ago
Maybe visit a hospital, disguise yourself as a doctor, and scrub for surgery, and you’ll get inspiration. ROTFL!


Big ID’er – 7.5 hours ago
Well, it’s not like I don’t know anything. I’ve read and researched practically all there is to know about the topic, not to mention talked with a subject matter expert for two hours. So I have all the knowledge in my head. I just need the creative spark to explain it to my audience in writing.


Speed Learner – 6.5 hours ago
Hey, it’s been an hour. Give us an update, already!


Big ID’er – 6 hours ago
I haven’t been able to start yet. Just streamed a classic Seinfeld (“The Junior Mint,” season 4, episode 20). The pivotal part of the episode took place in an operating theater, but that didn’t help trigger any inspiration at all. Maybe I’m just hungry (I skipped breakfast), so I’ll take a lunch break and attack the script on a full stomach.


Big ID’er – 5 hours ago
So I ate and took a short nap. That felt better. Fed, rested and ready to write! I think I can feel a script coming on… Wish me luck.


A.P. Lit – 5 hours ago
You might have writer’s block, like Kafka.


Big ID’er – 4.5 hours ago

Still nothing yet. But I’ve got the learning objectives, course outline and interview notes all printed out and lying right in front of me. Let me read through them one more time.


A.D.D.I.E. – 4.5 hours ago

You’ll get it done. You always do, right?


Big ID’er – 4.5 hours ago
Thanks @A.D.D.I.E., but I wish I felt the same. My confidence is at the lowest point ever.

Big ID’er – 4 hours ago
I just read everything again, but still no words flowing onto the page. Maybe I’m not the right instructional designer for this job. I’ve done many of these scripts, but I’m too tired to look at another one. The script is due on Monday, so I guess I’ll give up. It’s no use. The client won’t be happy, and I’ll need to find other work to replace this project.


Mr. SME – 4 hours ago

So, I don’t know anything about medical instruments. Why don’t you just explain it to me? Just for a minute.


Big ID’er – 4 hours ago
All right, the O.R. technician goes into the operating room before a surgery starts. He or she sterilizes and lays out the instruments in a specified fashion in the tray. Because they know where everything is, surgeons and nurses can pick up the right instrument without actually looking in the tray. It’s very important that they get it right the first time. It could a life-and-death situation in the O.R., and the instruments have to be where everyone knows they’re supposed to be.

L. Emmess – 4 hours ago
See, you’ve taught me something I didn’t know. What if you could talk your script out loud and capture it in a recording? Begin talking to yourself about the content as if you’re talking to somebody in the room, like you’re teaching a student. Role-play the instructor in a live class.


A.D.D.I.E – 3.5 hours ago
That’s a great idea, @L. Emmess. Sometimes talking to my cat is the best way I break my writer’s block. She’s such a slow learner that it makes me explain as clearly as I can. And I know her feedback won’t be as critical as my editor’s. 😉


Speed Learner – 2 hours ago
I thought I was the only one who did that, @A.D.D.I.E.! But it’s a dog, in my case.


Big ID’er – 3.5 hours ago
Sounds a bit odd to do it that way, but anything’s worth a try…


Bloom’s Tax Enemy – 3.5 hours ago
Or you could ask an experienced O.R. tech if you can squeeze out all the knowledge from their brain like a sponge! LOL!


Mr. SME – 3 hours ago
Isn’t that what @Big ID’er already did with the subject matter expert, @Bloom's Tax Enemy? I don’t think it’s a lack of information here, just a lack of being able to start structuring it.


A.P. Lit – 3 hours ago
If he ever had trouble writing, Steinbeck used to have one person in mind and tell his story to that person alone.


Big ID’er  – 3 hours ago
Guess what? I turned on the Voice Memos app on my iPhone and started talking slowly, explaining how the instruments needed to be set up in the tray depending on what type of surgery was scheduled (intestinal, spinal, cranial, etc.). At first, I talked without caring much about what I was saying, and I repeated myself quite a lot. But then, I started making sense and getting into the content.


A.P. Lit – 2.5 hours ago
Actually, it’s called “Think, speak, write.” A helpful technique for authors who have writer’s block. Also works for instructional designers!

Big ID’er  – 2 hours ago
So I’ve been talking to myself and recording the conversation for over 90 minutes. I’ve covered everything in my notes with the subject matter expert and followed the outline pretty closely. It’s starting to sound great! I might be able use some of what I’ve recorded as part of the script.


A.D.D.I.E. – 2 hours ago
Well, isn’t a script the spoken word? And isn’t talking to someone else about a topic unknown to them instructing them about it?


Big ID’er  – 1.5 hours ago
I’ve already started writing down what I think are the best parts of the recording. It’s still second-rate, but that’s fine for now. I usually end up rewriting scripts multiple times.


A.P. Lit – 1 hour ago
Wasn’t Hemingway known to have said that “the first draft of anything is crap” (or something like that)?


Bloom’s Tax Enemy – 1 hour ago
That’s nice, but my suggestions would have worked, too, IMHO.


Big ID’er – 1 hour ago
This is a good technique. Now I can’t stop writing! Well, I’m logging off Twitter. Thanks for everybody’s help—except you, @Bloom’s Tax Enemy. You just got blocked!


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