The blank page is terrifying.
But the good news is, writer’s block doesn’t exist.
Not being able to think of anything to write is easily overcome with a few strategies.
And if writing is what you do, and you’re serious about it, not being in the mood is not a good enough excuse. You just have to keep turning up, and getting started.
Which is not to say that I’m not the world’s greatest procrastinator. Lately I’ve been tackling this head on.
Here are 6 of my favourite ways to get started.
1. Start by writing an email to a friend
Here’s a lovely way to trick yourself into writing when you’re not feeling it.
Start an email to a friend instead!
Address the email to a friend you think might like the post or the story you’re about to write, and start writing directly into that email, instead of into a word document.
This also helps to make the style of writing friendly and relatable.
2. Start first thing in the morning
First thing in the morning, our brains are at their quietest.
If I can wake up early, and give myself a couple of hours in which to get some writing done, it can feel like there’s nothing else I should be doing.
No children clamouring for me to download them an app, no washing to put on, no emails pinging around or messages coming in on my phone.
3. Start by getting really bored
The Internet is sometimes not terribly helpful for writers. It can provide a million different types of distraction.
And yet, the most powerful way to overcome writer’s block is to have nothing else to do.
So if it’s difficult to start writing, and there seem to be a million and one other things you could do to procrastinate, turn all of that off.
Put your phone on airplane mode, and sit quietly until ideas start tumbling around in your brain.
4. Start by writing longhand
I was writing a couple of days ago about Pen and ink vs computer.
Starting to write with a pen in a notebook might be less intimidating than watching a cursor blink at you on a screen.
It can change the style of writing that you do as well. Having to physically form the words we want to write can make us more thoughtful.
5. Start by knowing what kind of writer you are
“There are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners.
The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house.
They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be.
They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up.
The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it.
They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever.
But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows.
And I’m much more a gardener than an architect.”George R.R. Martin
If you’re an architect rather than a gardener, it might be helpful to plan your writing before you start.
More and more detailed planning can be satisfying if you write this way. All you need to do afterwards is fill in the sections you’ve created in your blueprint.
If you’re a gardener, the best thing might be to just start writing. Don’t worry that you haven’t had an idea yet. Allow the idea to emerge as you write.
To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing…
When I find myself facing a blank page, that’s always going through my head.
What I capture in spite of myself interests me more than my own ideas.Pablo Picasso
6. Start by blocking distractions
Having Whatsapp messages, texts or carrier pigeons flying in through the window can be distracting.
Start by putting your phone on airplane mode. Or use an app like Flora to keep you on track. This is a lovely app. You plant a seed, the tree grows while you’re writing. If you close the app or wander off into other apps on your phone. THE TREE DIES. Brutal.
Above all, don’t panic! Writer’s block can be more to do with what else is going on in our lives than a lack of ideas.
If you can make space for it and try all these techniques, the ideas will start to flow.
Unless you’re trying to come up with a completely new idea. I’m not sure that’s possible.
Leave me a comment if you have any more ways to start I should know about. What works for you?