Web-based app that provides a space for writers to engage in “sprints” - timed windows with a focus to write as much towards your next project as possible.
How might we create an environment where writers are able to produce more content towards their first draft and overcome writer’s block?
This problem originates as one that I’ve struggled with myself for years - as a long-form fiction writer, I often have a lot of ideas in my head but very few actually make it into a word doc.
One of my most productive stints writing was when I joined an after-work writing group. We’d all gather to write in 15-minute bursts, with the focus of just getting as much written down as possible. As someone who falls into a perfectionist mindset with their writing that can be paralyzing, the experience was really freeing, and I ended up with a lot of content by the end. While there had to be some heavy edits to the work, I ended up much farther than I first started, and got there much faster than I had before. Finishing my first draft became a lot more tangible.
When I talked to my writing friends from that time - they agreed, this method was also quite helpful in finishing their own drafts. And with further research, I saw an opportunity for this type of technique to be helpful to writers in all stages of a first draft.
User Pain Points
Almost 90% of participants in my research had experienced writer’s block, 67% said they had sporadic writing habits, and only 44% said that they were happy with the amount of content they’ve written towards their first draft. In 2019, the University of Florida conducted a survey of 146 writers and found that those who wrote daily and consistently reported lower levels of writer’s block than those with less consistent habits
Perfectionism was the most commonly cited reason for writer’s block in my research, and was also one of the main cited causes in the Unviersity of Florida study on writer’s block. The writer knows a general idea of what they want to write, but the fear of a less-than-acceptable draft holds them back from getting those words out on the page.
Our preliminary research indicates that building consistent writing habits and overcoming perfectionism leads to writer’s becoming blocked less frequently - meaning they’re more likely to finish their first drafts.
Landing on the Solution
By creating short-term “sprints” where writers can focus less on the quality and more on the quantity, they can push past those mental blocks until they’re able to discover the needed inspiration for their next chapter. Once content has been produced for a first draft, then they can spend the necessary time editing the work to finish the novel, with the goal for this product to get them to the first draft stage faster.
During the sprints, a word count will be displayed to motivate the writer to focus on quantity, and after the sprint is done, the word count will be added to a total. This total could be towards a specific project, or all-time writing within this product. This tracking will reward them with delightful motivators and praises for hitting specific word-count milestones, further motivating them to write more!
Additionally, the base product could be stronger in creating those habits by adding a social aspect.
These timed sprints can encompass many writers who are prompted to share their total word count after the set time period, creating a challenge to work through that paralyzing writer’s block, with the reward of winning a sprint.
Writing is generally a lonely journey, and research has shown that working in a group means someone is more likely to finish the task.
Product Manager Learnings:
In completing this sprint, I was able to learn a lot about not jumping to conclusions based on my own experience. Coming from a writer background, I had some assumptions that I found not to be universal truths, and by conducting the research and allowing myself to really consider the perspectives of all the different types of writers, I believe I was able to strengthen the core idea of my product to a much better place.
I also learned the technical details of the product experience - writing a product spec, really focusing on the communication, and tailoring it to the specific experience I’m trying to target. Ensuring that my words didn’t create too vague of a problem space and were consistent throughout was a really important learning, as communication is such a key part of the role.