If there is one thing I’m asked all the time by clients, friends, family and random people who find out I’m a writer, it’s how do I start?
“When that blank document is open in front of me, the cursor blinking maliciously, how do I find the words?”
As someone who has been writing for most their life, I’m here to tell you, the mind-blanking is totally normal. It happens to everyone, me included. A blank page is overwhelming and I still baulk at it!
Don’t stress though, I’ve got some sure-fire tips to get you past the stunned mullet stage and get your fingers dancing across the keyboard in no time.
1. My number one tip is: write an outline first
So instead of opening up a fresh, new Google Doc and writing your whole introduction, fleshing out your body, and then writing your conclusion (hello overwhelm!), I want you to use dot points for each section first.
An example for you:
Title: The curse of the blank page (and how you can overcome it)
- The number one question
- Blank page feelings
- Sure-fire tips intro sentence
- Write an outline
- No editing/brain dump
- Fresh eyes
- Hope these tips helped
- Send to friends
- Comment below
Easy right? Nothing in depth, nothing difficult to get down. Most importantly, nothing overwhelming.
2. My next tip is to do a big brain dump
Once you’ve got your outline typed up, it’s time to dump all of the info in your head into the sections you’ve laid out. It doesn’t sound pretty, and it doesn’t have to be. At this stage, you’re not editing yourself. It doesn’t matter if what you get down sounds good, is spelt correctly or even makes sense! This stage is all about getting it on paper.
Once you’ve downloaded all of the information then, and only then, will you come back in and edit yourself. Cutting out what’s not needed, re-wording clumsy sentences, and making sure your writing flows, connects and makes sense.
A rough draft is called ‘rough’ for a reason. Let your initial brain dump be as rough as required.
3. My last tip is to get a pair of fresh eyes on your work
‘Fresh eyes’ was a term a colleague of mine used when we worked together in my past (corporate communications) life! And it’s totally stuck with me since then.
Traditionally, ‘fresh eyes’ is having someone else read and proof your work. Their eyes are fresh so they will pick up on things your tired eyes may not. Our wonderful brains have a habit of skimming, so often we will miss things like typos and maybe even bigger issues like a clunky narrative. If you’re in the position to have someone else read your work, do it!
If, like me, you work mostly alone and you need to get things out the metaphorical door without outside assistance, I strongly suggest you take a day or two away from whatever it is you’re writing. This gives your brain a break, and you can come back and look at your writing with a pair of fresh, more critical, eyes.
For example, this post isn’t going to be put up today. I’m going to come back and proof it in a couple of days, then schedule it to go live. Aside from more easily picking up typos, my fresh eyes might also reveal some holes in my writing or I could think of an extra (super important!) tip that I should add.
Giving your writing breaking space is so important, do it where you can.
That’s it, my friends. Three tips to getting you past the blank page, blank-mind dilemma! Write an outline, do a brain dump and find some fresh eyes. Sounds simple, and I promise it actually is.
I’d love to hear from you! Do you have an awesome tip for getting started on a piece of writing? Leave it in the comments below.
P.S. If you have a friend who might benefit from these three easy tips, please share it using the buttons below 🙂