You have an idea for a book or story you want to write. Maybe you want to write a novel, or a book for your business, or even revamp your website. Staring at the blank page can be scary. There are limitless possibilities, which can be both inspiring and intimidating.
Even if you have an idea or a vision for your end result, getting started is one of the hardest parts of writing.
Where does this hesitation and fear come from? Maybe it’s from a bad experience in English class, your own mindset, lack of confidence in yourself, or even feedback you received when you shared a different writing project.
Getting started is hard, but let’s explore how you can conquer the blank page and actually start putting words to paper.
Your Writing Mindset Matters
Your mindset is the beliefs, assumptions, and patterns you live your life by. Mindset affects your behavior, emotions, and worldviews. It affects basically everything in your life.
It’s not uncommon for authors to feel stuck in a fixed mindset and be plagued by limiting beliefs. It’s natural to have doubts and fears in life, especially when it comes to creative work. The key is challenging those beliefs and shifting your mindset, as they might actually be hindering you and contributing to this fear of the blank page.
Start by exploring what your beliefs around writing are. Do you think writing is too hard? That you don’t have what it takes? That if your draft isn’t perfect the first time, there’s no way to fix it?
You can journal about these ideas or just write them down as they come up. Then, see if you can find a way to reframe or challenge these ideas.
If you think writing is ‘too hard,’ acknowledge that writing is hard but that it’s also a skill you develop over time. If you think you have to write a perfect draft, try to sit with the idea that nothing is ever perfect and that regardless, your manuscript will always need several rounds of editing.
And if deeper things come up as you start to shift your mindset, I encourage you to consider reaching out to a mental health professional you trust. Sometimes this kind of mindset work can reveal deeper troubles that deserve and require professional support.
Embrace Your Unique Process
Another thing that will help you conquer the blank page is to not only figure out but embrace your unique writing process.
There’s a lot of writing advice available online and in books these days, which is great! There’s something for everyone. But if you start to feel like you have to do everything and implement every piece of advice, that’s going to get overwhelming and bog you down.
You can definitely try different processes, tips, and tricks, but if you find it doesn’t help you in some way, that’s okay! Just stop using that option and try something else. Mix and match processes and structures until you find something that’s best suited to you.
Drafting looks different for everyone. We all have different lifestyles, brains, and needs. Trying to force yourself to fit into one category is doing yourself a disservice.
If you’re still feeling stuck, don’t worry. There’s a natural ebb and flow to the writing process, and some scenes (or even entire manuscripts) will be easier to write than others.
Other strategies you can try in the moment when you feel stuck:
- Too bogged down in editing as you go? Try writing in a font like Wing Dings (so you can’t read it at all) or change the font color to white. It’s also said that Comic Sans is a great font to help you stop rereading and might even make you type faster. (Is there any science behind that one? I don’t think so, but I’ve tried it myself and it seems to help. Just look it up on social media and you’ll see other writers saying the same!)
- Leave a note and skip ahead. If you get stuck on a scene that you know needs to be written but just can’t find the words, jot down a note where the scene should go in your manuscript, then move on. You can keep the note short or even outline how you’d like the scene to go.
- Use brackets to flag small details to fix or fill in later. Using square brackets [like this] is great if you know you’ve got details to smooth out later. They’re easy to search for in a document, and chances are, you aren’t using them for anything else.
- Keep a running notes and/or inspiration document. You can use the notes app on your phone, a Google Doc (also accessible via phones), or even keep a physical notebook, to write down all kinds of stuff related to your WIP. Having a dedicated place to write this stuff down will help Future You.
Exercises to Try
Even with all of that, sometimes getting words on the page is still difficult. Try one (or more) of these short writing exercises to help you get any words on the page and start dislodging your block.
- Open a new blank page, then set a timer. Write until the timer runs out. Write whatever comes to mind. It can be a stream of consciousness, something for your story, or anything. The important thing is that you write without editing or thinking too hard. Try writing for at least 5 minutes.
- Think of a dream you once had. Rewrite it. Because we only remember parts of our dreams, you’ll probably need to include missing details, fill in gaps, and connect some dots. This gives you the opportunity to be creative while taking some of the pressure off yourself since you’ve got a distinct starting point already.
- Write a scene from a friend’s or character’s point of view. Adopt your best friend or a favorite character’s persona for this exercise. Free write about what’s going on in their head and their life. You might even put them in a scene, like an interaction at a coffee shop or sending them 100 years into the future.
Not only is your goal to simply get words on the page, but remember: nobody ever has to see the product of these writing exercises. It’s just between you and your screen, and it’s just for practice.
Take the pressure off yourself, and give yourself permission to be a little messy in this creative process!
Still feeling stuck? You can read more about limiting beliefs and author mindset here.
If you want someone to work through your mindset and ‘stuckness’ with, contact me to learn more about writing coaching and to set up your free no obligation consultation.