Do you ever find you need help overcoming writer’s block? What does this look like? You need to create a legal nurse consulting report but you are stuck. How do you begin? Here are 6 tips to getting started overcoming writer’s block.
1. Get the basics right.
Look at what is holding you back. Are you not sure about
- What the issues are in the case
- Who the attorney is representing
- The deadline
Get clarity from your client. You can’t do a great job without understanding the framework of your work product. Be sure you identify the issues foremost in the attorney’s mind, knowing you may uncover previously hidden issues as well.
Know who hired you. This sounds simple, but I once received an expert report written by one of the experts subcontracting for our company. She wrote a beautiful report – if she was a defense expert. Unfortunately she had been hired by the plaintiff’s attorney.
Thank goodness we caught it when proofreading the report before it went to the attorney. As a result of this experience, we immediately took steps in our letters and emails to experts to reinforce who our client was.
Be clear on when your work product is needed. Don’t allow procrastination to keep you from starting the report way too close to the deadline for everyone’s comfort. I call this “brinkmanship”.
Brinkmanship is the art or practice of pursuing a dangerous policy to the limits of safety before stopping, typically in politics.
2. Overcoming writer’s block mean checking your mindset
Are you inexperienced and afraid of bungling the work product? Do you believe that if you spent just a little more time (and a little more time which becomes a lot of time) that you could get the report perfect? Are you worried you will spend too much time or get distracted by side issues?
Remember that your mindset can be your worst enemy. Believe in yourself. You have nursing background that gives you great insight into medical issues and makes you valuable as a legal nurse consultant. Likely you know more about medicine and how the healthcare system functions than does your client.
The only way you get experience is by doing reports. And also keep in mind that perfectionism can paralyze you to the point that you can’t start a report for fear it won’t be perfect.
3. Disconnect from your distractions.
Turn off email. Don’t surf the internet. Unplug or mute your phone. Have someone in charge of your children, if you have young kids, or work after they go to bed. Don’t sabotage your work time by allowing distractions to pull you away from what you are writing. If you have to check email, set a timer so that you resume working after a 5 minute break.
4. Write first, and then edit.
I recommend making an outline of the points you want to cover in your report. It will help the flow and enable you to make sure you are covering the topic. Don’t get stuck by a section of your report, or the need to find the perfect phrase. You will find your word flow will improve as you write.
You will always have the opportunity to go back and edit or fine tune your report – that is, if you don’t wait until the last minute to write it.
5. Copy and paste from other reports.
Do you have certain types of reports that you create over and over? Let’s say you are a long term care expert who commonly cites the Federal regulations that govern nursing home care. Save those sections as files, and copy and paste them into an expert report.
If you commonly define certain medical terms, set up a vocabulary file and keep adding to it. I have saved files that explain the Glasgow Coma Score, stages of pressure sores, muscle strength testing, pain assessment tools, and many other explanations I typically insert into my reports.
Be very careful, however, that you do not copy and paste case specific material. I proofread a report for an expert who had used sections of another report she had written – but did not delete the other patient’s name and identifying information.
6. Stick to your deadline.
Set and stick to a deadline. Put it in your calendar. Know that the sooner you get the report done, the sooner you get to pay yourself for your work (by being able to use the retainer you received). Stay focused and you will have no difficulty overcoming writer’s block.
Pat Iyer is the author of The Writing Handbook for Legal Nurse Consultants, which shares many practical suggestions for polishing your legal nurse consulting work product. She has written more than one thousand legal nurse consulting reports.