Like many writers, I am often intimidated by a blank page. It’s like staring at an artist’s canvas or a vacant room in a home that’s ready to be redecorated. But a blank page doesn’t have to be feared. Embrace it for the opportunity it is to express yourself, and the writing will come more naturally.
Some say the hardest part of being a writer is getting into a routine and writing regularly. Others say they draw a blank and don’t know what to write about. The empty space, they claim, is inside their own head. To get past both obstacles, here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned to develop a regular writing practice.
Do it first thing in the morning. Just like exercise or meditation, writing first thing in the morning can help you get it out of the way. Some people swear by completing morning pages – writing continuously without stopping for three pages. For some, morning pages helps remove the toxic thoughts and feelings that have built up over the previous 24 hours so your brain can operate more freely and creatively. Others choose a method like “500 words a day” to establish consistency in their practice. Whichever method you choose can help you become more productive. Once it’s done, you can move on to other tasks, and you can feel good about your accomplishment.
Schedule it in your calendar. If you don’t have time to write first thing in the morning, schedule time on your calendar for later in the day. Make an appointment with yourself to sit at a desk or computer. Set aside at least one hour, and just write. This time is for you, just like scheduling a massage or haircut. Putting it in your calendar shows you are serious and committed about giving your writing attention.
Skip the computer. I find it helpful to keep a notebook for writing. It’s where I jot down story ideas, webinar notes and bullet points for blog posts. It’s also where I write rough drafts for my stories. Then I will turn on the computer to do a more complete second draft. If you turn on the computer first, you’re more likely to edit as you write. Avoid doing this because it slows you down. Get your ideas down on paper first, then go back and rewrite and edit.
To keep inspiration flowing, check out these ideas to stay inspired and kickstart your creativity.
Play writing games. I keep a small plastic container filled with slips of paper. On each paper slip is a word. It can be anything – car, dog, photograph, telephone, mystery – you name it. There’s about 100 slips of paper in this container. Whenever I’m feeling stuck with writer’s block, I pull out three slips and reveal the words. Then I write a very short story, a few paragraphs, making sure to include those three words. If you want to challenge yourself further, choose five words. The more words you choose at random, the more challenging it becomes to include them all in your writing.
Once I’ve used a word, I set it aside. I’ll do several stories in one sitting, so I will set aside words I’ve already used during that session. At the end of that full session, all the words are put back to reuse in a future writing session.
Keep a writer’s journal. I started keeping a writer’s journal earlier this year. It’s where I keep story and blog ideas as I think of them. It’s where I keep notes from webinars and workshops I attend. If I come across a quote that I like, something that moves me deeply, I add that to my journal too. Any miscellaneous idea I have about writing and creativity I add to my journal. When my ideas run dry, I turn to my journal and look for inspiration.
Find quotes that inspire you. We’ve all seen the memes on Facebook. Some are funny; others are meant to inspire and make us feel better about ourselves. We find one we like and share it with our friends on Facebook. Is there a quote that resonates with you? Does it remind you of a situation or person in your life? Use it to write why it has meaning for you. Another potential source of writing inspiration: tea bag tags found on Yogi tea.
Similar to the memes you see on social media, the sayings on these tea tags are often profound and thought-provoking, ideal fodder for writing inspirational essays.
Seek out writing prompts. There are numerous resources available about writing – essay books, magazines and websites – that offer writing challenges and prompts. Writer’s Digest has an online prompt tool you can download to kickstart your writing. Many books about writing contain brief exercises to get you started thinking about writing. For example, “Crafting the Personal Essay” by Dinty W. Moore contains several essay writing exercises and writing prompts to keep you writing for a long time.
Find a writing buddy. I’m not talking about collaboration here. I’m talking about creating a support system for yourself. If you have a friend who also writes for a living, join together as a support system. You can talk about story ideas, exchange writing tips, critique each other’s work, etc. Having a writing buddy keeps you motivated and accountable for your progress, just like having a workout buddy. You don’t want to slack off knowing your friend is pushing you to succeed. This is especially helpful if you are shy about sharing your work with others and are reluctant to join a writers’ group. All it takes is one person to share your writing efforts with to keep you writing day in and day out.
Using one, two or any combination of these ideas can give you the confidence you need to start writing – and keep writing.