In your capacity as a leader/manager, you may be called upon to make a presentation to a group regarding the work your organization does, to serve as a speaker for seminars or workshops, to write a grant or a proposal or to prepare a report for your boss or board of directors.

The next time you find yourself involved in one of these activities, ask yourself if what you have to say might be of interest to a wider audience. If so, when you do one of the above activities, write. Consider turning that report or speech into an article for a magazine, newsletter or journal.

The “Do It – Write” idea came to me quite by accident. Just prior to moving to Conroe Texas in November, 1979, to begin my job as Director of the Montgomery County Juvenile Department, I attended a meeting of The Texas Corrections
Association. The editor of that association’s journal asked me to submit an article for publication. Extremely flattered, I readily agreed. However, I moved to Conroe, got involved in my new job and forgot about writing the article.

When the deadline for submission my manuscript was imminent, I frantically began searching for a subject for the article. In my search I discovered the penciled outline of a speech I had given numerous times to college classes and civic
groups. That outline became the skeleton around which I built the article, “A Philosophy of Juvenile Detention,” which appeared in the January/February 1980 issue of the Texas Journal of Corrections.

After the article was printed, the idea of turning speeches and workshops into articles struck me as an excellent method of developing material for publication. As a result, I had three more articles accepted for publication by the end of that same year. This was accomplished with very little work beyond that which was done for the original presentations.

A few years later, I expanded the concept and began developing articles not only from speeches, but also from descriptions of programs my department operated, grant requests, activities we did to address problems within our department and remarks prepared for testifying before the legislature. This approach caused me to frequently ask myself when in involved in any activity, “is there an article here?”

Developing the Article

In writing courses, instructors tell their students to write about what they know. By lettering the research for a speech, grant request, program development or report become the research for an article, not only are you working within the bounds of your knowledge, but you also double the benefit your receive from a single effort.

Many public speakers develop outlines which contain the key points of their speeches. The outline can serve as the skeleton around which an article is built. If you are one of those individuals who writes the entire speech prior to delivering it, or if you have submitted a written report to someone, the written speech or report can serve not only as a method of organizing your thoughts but also as the first draft of the article to be developed.

The delivery of a speech or verbal presentation can be served as a critique of the first draft of the article. As you speak you will think of new ideas which can be incorporated into later drafts of the article. The use of a tape recorder can prove extremely valuable at this point. By recording your presentation you avoid having to rely on your memory to recapture the flashes of inspiration that occurred in the middle of the presentation.

The question-and-answer period following a speech or presentation can provide additional suggestions as to how the article could be improved. These suggest can also be incorporated into later drafts of the article.

Sources of Material

With this approach to article preparation, you have a huge reservoir from which material can be drawn. Some of the major sources from which I have developed articles are:

  • The presentations I made to professional and/or civic groups (“A Philosophy of Juvenile Detention,” “Training Officers in Juvenile Detention,” “This System is Rated X,” “How to Play C.Y.A.,” and “What a Chief Probation Officer Expects from a Board”; “Say It – Write.”
  • The presentations I make to boards or advisory com-mittees (“To Detain or Not to Detain,”);
  • The grants I wrote seeking funding for programs (“Specialized Treatment and Rehabilitation Project: A Different Approach to the Bootcamp Concept,” What Works?”. “Employment Assistance as a Part of Probation,” Helping Probationers Find and keep – Jobs,”);
  • Papers prepared for an academic course (“Christians and the Prisoner,” “Understanding Inmate Slang: a Programmed Instruction Booklet”);
  • The descriptions of activities within the organizations I have worked (“Performance Evaluation,” “The Administrative Hearing in Probation,” “The Administrative Hearing: An effective Probation Tool,” “Fire, When Ready,” “Education in a Detention Center” “The Teacher in a Detention Setting,”
  • Remarks I prepared when testifying before the legislature (“The Empty Promises of Consolidation, “Is Consolidation Really the Answer?” “Whose Monkey is It Anyway?”);
  • Thoughts stirred up when discussing things with friends (“Characteristics of Loyal Employee,” “Should Texas Raise the Age of Criminal Culpability?”)

The problem is not that lack material about which you can write, but that we fail to recognize all the sources from which we can draw material for publication. Once, when I had a column due and just not come up with a topic, I decided to write about having writer’s block. Using the “Do It – Write” approach one’s reservoir of material should never run dry.

Part 2 of this series will appear in next month’s column and we will explore the “benefits or incentives one receives for writing for publication” and “getting published.”

Do It – Write: Part 1
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