Get Retro: Reflecting Through Writing

Some lines about learning and improving with reflective writing

Pausing, reflecting a bit and putting thoughts into words help us to look back at events that took place. It could be something delightful, inspirational, strange, awkward or even bad. We can learn from those events for ourselves. Looking back on purpose and in a structured manner, a retrospective, is a valuable opportunity to learn and improve. Within the following lines, I sketch out my process of writing and which questions I ask myself while doing it. Enjoy and feel free to share your approach!

In our busy, fast-moving lives, we only find little time to really think about how things went and if they didn’t go well, what exactly didn’t go well – at least this is my own experience. Some time ago, I stumbled upon a set of statements by French-Cuban writer Anaïs Nin and I think she had a talent to bring thing to the point but also opens up a new perspective. Find below a quote by her on writing:

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” — Anaïs Nin

I really like this idea. It’s both an easy and true concept. And I like that the personal character of writing is in the spot.

Getting started 🧠

In a professional context, I normally pick a topic to reflect on from a recent project, from discussions during courses at the master’s degree course Content Strategy at FH JOANNEUM I participate in, from a conference or meetup visit or from ideas elaborated in articles. When starting to write a blogposts like you read at the moment, the following questions come up first:

  • What have I experienced lately?
  • Is there something I want to share?
  • Which topic or idea might come out of this experience?
  • What might be interesting for the people out there?
  • Should it be something personal or rather professional?
  • How could the title be?

First concept, first words 📝

Structure is key but I have to admit that the structure evolved during the process of writing. The skeleton is built step by step and I tend to enrich the first paragraphs written down with images, quotes, tweet snippets or other materials – not to blow it up visually, but to reference thoughts of others. I ask myself the following questions while doing that:

  • How do I set up the whole thing?
  • How do I get people drawn into the article?
  • Is there an anecdote I can share?
  • Is there a metaphor I can integrate (as I did in a previous article)
  • Do I have any smart statement I can make?

Easy is not easy 🧐

A good way to put thoughts together is to collect phrases in a very intuitive way. Sometimes I’ve heard something somewhere that makes sense in regard of the topic. Writing is a difficult process but it is manageable. I spend a lot of time in figuring out the content of possible sections.

  • How long should a section be?
  • Does it makes sense to have dividers?
  • What do I put into lists?
  • Is my writing style good, readable, understandable?
  • Do I get my point across?
  • Do readers get inspired and do they find my words valuable?

Getting retro is good 🔎

I recently participated in an team-internal retrospective meeting where the current status and pain points were collected and reviewed. An important part of this retrospective was the definition of small next steps which can be implemented without a lot of effort. This approach is also helps to find answers to these questions:

  • What do I need to be (more) productive?
  • Do I have everything to be in a good mood?
  • What should be done more often, what less often?
  • What should be continued, what stopped?
  • What do I need from others to work better?
  • What can I do next to improve?

Share and learn 🎈

I hope some of the thoughts above help to reflect and get into the mood of retrospective. It’s a very personal thing but it also helps to share ways to do writing and to improve while practicing. Some colleagues of mine put together their own approach to writing – feel free to have a look at their articles and get inspired:

Experience designer, aspiring content strategist, humanist, world citizen, traveller, mountain hiker, Cuba Libre aficionado, fairness advocate. www.ejochum

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