The Power of Templates

As a writer, I find templates to be one of my most powerful tools. When working with tools, a template is a metal or plastic form that lets you cut out the outline of an object. When working with words, it’s an organizational form that lets your rough out the outline of a work.

In the context of web content, I have about a dozen templates — rough structures for articles — that I apply detail and personality to when I receive an assignment. This saves me hours every week, since I’ve gotten pretty quick at matching the right template with the right subject.

Templates do not stifle creativity or voice any more than a standardized rhyme scheme stifles creativity in poetry. It actually encourages creativity and voice by allowing me to put all my focus on the unique part of the article. I no longer have to think about the frame of the house, meaning I can focus on what’s living there and how it’s decorated.

Some authors use a template for their novels, producing entire series in which each book follows basically the same outline. Done poorly, they can be disappointing and formulaic. The best take that same outline and make each one a unique story by changing the characters, the dialog, the details.

You can also make life easier by building “time templates” into your day. This is a way of organizing your time and your writing. I work best from about 6 to about 9. AM vs PM don’t matter, so I schedule the rest of my day around writing during that block. Weekly and monthly templates can help you arrange less frequent tasks — for example, committing to posting certain kinds of posts to your blog on certain days.

Think about the writing you’ve done. If it helps, you can pencil a rough outline for a few representative samples. Chances are you also use templates, but may not know it. Once you realize you have such a powerful tool, you’ll be better able to use it to your advantage.

Thanks for listening.

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