The screen looms large, gray and blank in front of your eyes. The undisturbed vastness of the lined tablet might as well be the smooth surface of a deep pond over which your pen is poised, just waiting for you to trouble the waters. How will you ever fill the space with thoughts, sentences, paragraphs–a cohesive whole? Why in the world did you ever imagine yourself a writer?
You may feel like you are utterly alone, but every writer I know experiences some variation on this unsettling theme. You sit at your desk ready to begin that great American novel, that pensive poem, or that A+ academic essay. You sit. You sit and stare. You sit and think. You sit and surf the web. You get up and get coffee or tea or wine or water. You get up and walk around. You call your best friend. You may even get up and run the vacuum cleaner or wash the car. Still the empty screen or page waits and affords no escape.
Here’s the deal; if you want to write you have to do just that. Words must be put on paper or typed on the keyboard. I don’t care if you write “I have nothing to say; this is complete lunacy” 100 or 1000 times, the idea is to prime the pump, clean the pipes, and warm the imagination until the creativity starts to flow like honey.
Don’t worry if your words aren’t perfect. Don’t edit yourself. Don’t stop. Just write. Most of the time an idea will come, a seed will be sown, a story will appear as long as you persevere. There may only be one good sentence out of 500 words, but that sentence may be the gateway to an amazing story or a complex character, or the genesis of a twisting plot.
Our logical, linear brains suggest starting at the beginning, but I say–nah, just begin. Why not start with the image of crazy Uncle Leo pulling plastic bags out of his coat pockets and stuffing them full of treats from the dessert table at the community picnic. Let your words develop Uncle Leo’s character and explore why he feels the need to snitch some snacks for later.
If you’re working on an academic essay about preventing adult onset diabetes, simply start writing the questions you have about the topic. Then take your questions and start your research.
Regardless of the topic, the style, or mode of writing, one simple act will get you going. Just begin. Put your fingers to the keyboard or your pen to paper. It may be positively awful, but the more you write the easier it will become. You never know; that awful paragraph might be followed by a real gem.
What are your best tips for countering writer’s block?
Photo by bingbing used under Creative Commons License. Thanks!