A lot of people talk about Writer’s Block. They talk about being daunted by The Blank Page. And then there’s just good old-fashioned Procrastination. If you’re a writer, these things are normal. But the more you give them a TITLE and a place in your process, the more they own you. Stop it. Don’t give any of these things power. Today I wanted to talk about how to break out of that frozen state that many writers find themselves in. You’ve made an outline, you’ve got piles of research notes, you’ve been THINKING about writing this new thing for a long time. Hey, I’m the first person to say that wandering around aimlessly and staring into space IS writing. It is! But sooner or later you have to produce pages. It’s what separates the dabblers from the pros. There are ways to fight the blank page and the simplest one is to Just. Start. Writing.
I’m one of those sickos who enjoys the blank page. I like first drafts. The sky’s the limit! But I understand how for many, STARTING may be the hardest part. I have found that, just by going through the act of hitting the keys and writing ANYTHING, ideas will start to come. Something will take shape. I believe momentum can be created simply by “tricking” yourself into it.
Tell yourself, “I’m not really going to write the real thing for real, I’m just going to write the crappy version.” JUST START. Write something stupid and horrible. No one has to see it. We no longer live in the days of typewriters and correction tape and crumpled paper anymore (even though it makes a great image for this blog). Digital writing is little more than thoughts in the air, instantly deleted! So write anything. Write about how you hate writing. Write about the nothingness. But if you can, at least get your characters talking. I swear to you, this works.
This seems to work with many other activities too. If you want to establish a new habit, just force yourself to fake it for a while. If you don’t smile enough, force yourself to smile. Sooner or later, you kind of trick yourself into doing it for real. You can force your brain and your talent to kick in by giving it an active, aggressive PUSH. Can’t write anything today? Fake it. Just start hitting the keys.
Some of my writer friends love the REWRITE more than the blank page. Well if the blank page is scary, make it “UN-BLANK” as soon as possible. Once there is even a garbage version of a scene on the page, look at you, you have something to rewrite! And rewriting is easier.
I’ll go one step further and say that blindly starting with no plan can also generate brand new ideas. It’s a fun way to brainstorm. I used to do a podcast segment once a week with my own funny take on a subject. One day I thought, “I’ve got nothing to say… let’s see where that goes.” The result is a disjointed and bizarre essay I read on the podcast simply titled “Train Of Thought.” You can listen to it HERE. It’s not anything that’s going to win a Pulitzer… but you know what? It was entertaining. It was funny. It had some new ideas in it that expanded into more ideas. The exercise is valid. Tap those keys into the hazy oblivion and see where your Train Of Thought ends up. Choo-Choo!
Just start. Don’t worry about the end result. Don’t worry about keeping it. Don’t think about “never working again.” Just hit dem keys! Just start!
Seriously, now. Just go do it. It will be okay and you’re going to rewrite it anyway.