In a previous post I wrote about my love for the blank page, but sometimes the blank page is intimidating and overwhelming.
Sometimes I’ll sit down to write, brimming with ideas, stories, and words I want to say, but when I face the blank page I go blank. Minutes pass, possibly hours, as I stare out the window, check my email, clean my desk, doodle, and do anything but write.
It’s frustrating when every word that sounded great in my head now seems inadequate or disappears altogether.
Here are four tips that have helped me overcome the blank page:
1. Accept that you’ll write scraps
I take the pressure off myself to write something brilliant, eloquent, and beautiful. I give myself permission to write scraps. I don’t worry about spelling or grammar or finding the exact words I want. I just get something on the page.
I’ve learned that I’m happier writing scraps than I am writing nothing at all.
You can always edit and rewrite later, but you need words on the page to work with first. On the other hand, sometimes those raw words are all you need because they are for your eyes only.
A great piece of advice I heard is to write for yourself and edit for others.
2. Create a writing habit
By writing consistently, I’ve found the words come out more quickly and easily. Start small. Write once a week if that’s all you can manage. Or write 100 words each time you write. Or write for ten minutes each time you write.
Once this becomes a habit you can build up the amount of writing you do. Writing once a week might turn into writing once a day. 100 words might turn into 1000 words. Ten minutes might turn into an hour.
Even if you stick with your small amount, that’s better than a blank page.
3. Keep a notebook
Even if you prefer typing, a notebook is handy for the times when inspiration strikes, when you’re away from the laptop, and when you just want to write something quickly. No more excuses that it takes too long for the laptop to boot up or that you don’t have any paper to write on.
A notebook helps because of its accessibility. Be strategic and put it in your pocket or bag so it’s on you when you’re out. Keep it on your desk or bedside table or a place where you spend most of your day. Keep multiple notebooks if you want.
Make sure one is always ready at hand so you can write whenever the inspiration strikes.
4. Make a list of writing topics
I wrote a list of 365 moments in my life that I want to capture in writing. They are memories I don’t want to forget. The idea was to write about one each day of the year. This didn’t happen, but I can always go back to that list when I don’t know what to write.
Make your own list of writing topics. They can be writing prompts or exercises, themes, questions, story ideas, or anything else you’d like to write about. Add things to the list as you think of them and you’ll never run out of writing material.