If It Works for Gawande

Recently I caught a TED talk by one of my favorite authors, Atul Gawande. He spoke about the positive effects of having OR teams use a checklist before starting a procedure. He had gone to airline pilots to help him and his team design the list. Flyers have long used pre-flight checklists. The surgical results were dramatic in terms of harm reduction. One of the important factors was for the surgical team to function as a team, rather than as the supporting cast for a star surgeon. The culture of the individual was subsumed by the need for a system. The checklist promoted this concept and focused attention on the process.

Well, I wondered, if a checklist works in the OR, might it also work for writers, who are, as we know, stars in their own minds, used to hitting the page with guns blazing, the sacred ground of creativity well defended. Dare I introduce the concept of planning ahead? Not an outline of the text like Ms. Grundy demanded in high school, no, the content still deserves the freedom to develop as it will. But what about a checklist that helps me to honor process and anticipate the practical aspects of a writing project? Yes, there are practicalities in my work. And I don’t have elves to come in the night and make new stories. It’s all on me. Here’s what I propose.


Courtesy of KVDbooks

1) Capture inciting event/idea/image __

2) Enter intention: genre/audience/basic conflict __

3) Prepare materials: note taking/safe storage/text creation __

4) Record tentative/assigned deadline __

5) Label drafts: title/version/location


7) Reviews: author/beta readers/editor

8) Revise: content/copy editing

9) Submit for publication: guidelines/ms preparation (formatting, backup)/record date, venue, response __


Please feel free to copy, use and distribute this thing, but I’d like to get credit for it, please. And thanks Dr. Gawande. The patient is alive and well on her way to recovery. All sewed up.

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