“I spent some time working in the television industry, and I learned a technique that writers use. It’s called “the bad version.” When you feel that a plot solution exists, but you can’t yet imagine it, you describe instead a bad version that has no purpose other than stimulating the other writers to imagine a better version.
For example, if your character is stuck on an island, the bad version of his escape might involve monkeys crafting a helicopter out of palm fronds and coconuts. That story idea is obviously bad, but it might stimulate you to think in terms of other engineering solutions, or other monkey-related solutions. The first step in thinking of an idea that will work is to stop fixating on ideas that won’t. The bad version of an idea moves your mind to a new vantage point.”
Scott Adams in “How To Tax the Rich“
- The Hollywood Approach: write the bad version. I realized in reading Scott Adam’s article “How To Tax the Rich” that “writing the bad version” is something that we often do just to help a team move forward with an e-mail to a prospect or potential partner.
- The Schoolboy Approach: write an outline. Normally shorter is better for an opening e-mail and you may be able to expand each item into a single sentence instead of a paragraph or a section and be done.
- Add a Middleman: call/talk someone and explain the key points you want to make. Extra points for recording it to allow for easier capture instead of breaking your flow to write it down as you go. We sometimes act as an interviewer or a proxy for the target audience to help a client unlock insights.
- Quit Typing: put down the keyboard and pick up the phone (or click on Skype) and call the person you owe the e-mail and make your points directly. Extra points for making your own recording of the voicemail you leave when you cannot reach them so that you can now send a more coherent e-mail.
- Begin With The End In Mind: Write the e-mail you would like to get in response to your e-mail. Use that as a guide to crafting your approach (from Stephen R. Covey’s 2nd Habit: “Begin With The End In Mind”).
- Use Your Right Brain Instead Of Your Left: sketch out the issue or proposal on a whiteboard, a piece of graph paper, a 3×5 card, or a napkin depending upon where inspiration strikes you.