Tools for writing

4 ways to take the blank out of the page

Oh geez, just the introductory sentence and already I’m painting myself into a corner as a giver of some kind of advice. Just call me Clippy, and I’ll help you with writing!

Have you got a topic in mind and and audience you want to reach? Then you’re ready to go. Or maybe not. We’ve all sat in the chair and opened up the post editor or word processor and … stared at the white space.

A lot is made of procrastination and drinking in the face of that blank expanse. Once you get going, you’ll be OK. But how exactly do you get started? Here are some ways to jump on that paperclip horse and run, and conquer the scary white space.

Notebooks

You will forget your ideas if you don’t write them down.

I keep notepads everywhere … beside the bed (for dream notes), in every purse, beside my computer. I enjoy special stationery from upscale stores, but the ones real estate agents give out like candy do the same thing. I do like a smooth gel pen. If you’re more verbal (or just a little sauced) talk to Alexa or Siri or a plain old voice recorder.

If not a physical notepad, use free apps like Google Keep, Apple Notes or Microsoft One Note to list ideas, people, websites, etc. that are related to whatever you’re writing about. Apps are pretty great at allowing you to organize and re-organize your notes as you gather your thoughts on a topic.

Whichever method you choose, having some ideas about what you want to write about and where they seem to be going will prepare you for battle with Ol’ Blanky Page.

Walking

If sitting there is ever too much, get up, go outside and go for a walk. Moving around, getting the blood flowing, not to mention looking around, is a great way to get ideas flowing.

If you’ve been focusing on a problem for awhile, it’s amazing how often a simple walk around the neighbourhood can unblock the logjams in your brain. It works for me, anyway. Many times I come back to my desk from a break outside, eager to apply the editorial solution or brilliant line that’s appeared in my mind.

Try not to anticipate results, however, by not taking a notebook/pen or phone with you. Try to let your mind be free and focus on something other than your project, like the whole world out there. If something comes to you, mulling it over is a good way to test if it really works. Which brings me to …

Meditation

I’ve been meditating with the Headspace app for a while now. It teaches mindful meditation in a simple way, without a lot of spirituality/New Age trappings.

Through the various techniques of focusing on the breath, visualizations, letting the thoughts come and go, and letting the mind be free, it encourages detaching from your ego and self-image and making space for new ideas and new possibilities to come in. That can only inform creativity, can’t it?

Improv

Lately I’ve been taking some improv workshops, and it’s good not only for rediscovering spontaneity but also for practising cooperation and collaboration. It’s not even as much about performing and being the funniest as it is about getting up there (yes, in front of people) and creating something out of thin air with your scene partner.

I wish I could get everyone I collaborate with in a typical project to commit to at least some principles of improv, i.e. bypassing critical second thoughts, saying “yes” and being open to ideas, succeeding or failing together in this thing you’re all making – if something fails, try another idea.

But as it stands, even alone at the computer, improv teaches me to trust that ideas will come. And once written, that I might not necessarily be in charge of the whole process of getting my ideas into their final form and I have to accept others in the process and what they bring into it.

Basically, you have practise letting go.

Write some words, and then some more, until you find an ending and remember that those are much harder.

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