Whether you are creating a blog post for your personal site or writing on a specific topic at the request of a client, getting started is nearly always difficult. There's something about staring at a blank page that can bring out writer's block in even the most prolific content creators. The times when I feel like my muse has abandoned me are more frequent than I care to admit. Fortunately, there are some surefire techniques for bringing that fickle muse back and getting the creative juices flowing again. These five have never failed me, whether used individually or in combination:
1. Find Inspiration in Quotes
Staring at a blank screen is anxiety-provoking at best, and at worst, it can lead to full-blown writer's block. Copying and pasting a few well-written quotes at the top of the page works wonders when it comes to easing stress. Something about the sight of words filling up the top quarter of the sheet makes it easier to add quality content below. Usually, the quotes have to be deleted before submission, but by that time they have served their purpose as inspiration. Wikiquotes is a great resource, but beware, it is common for users to dive in and spend hours browsing the site, which will almost surely result in a missed deadline.
"I am not nothing in the sense of emptiness, but I am the creative nothing, the nothing out of which I myself as creator create everything." -Max Stirner, The Ego and Its Own
2. Try Freewriting
I want my work to be perfect. I want each word to convey my exact meaning, and I want sentences and paragraphs to flow together like water. Unfortunately, in a first draft that almost never happens. Freewriting opens up space to be imperfect because there are no expectations. I simply type my stream-of-consciousness, unloading everything I know about the topic in a brain dump -- no format or logical sequence required. While the result is nowhere near ready for submission, it does cure writer's block nearly 100 percent of the time. I usually end up with enough usable material -- rearranged, edited and cleaned up -- to give me a solid start on the article I am writing.
3. Start in the Middle
The first sentence of any project is the hardest, in my opinion. There is so much pressure because the opening line sets the tone for the article. On top of that, you have to engage readers and convince them to invest five or 10 minutes with you, which is a tall order to deliver on in just a few words. Rewriting your first sentence 15 times can suck up vast amounts of your time, and once you are finally satisfied, you still have the rest of the article to write. When the perfect words simply won't come, my solution is to start right in the middle of the page. I work on a paragraph that will appear partway through, leaving the beginning until the end. After the piece is almost complete, I usually find that the beginning is far easier to compose.
Middle out, Richard! Of course!
4. Take a Break
It sounds ridiculous to take a break when you haven't even started, but sometimes it's exactly the right way to begin a blog post. Of course, it all depends on what you do during that break. Don't do nothing. Don't watch TV. Don't play Angry Birds. These typically stunt your ability to write instead of encouraging it. Instead, I have discovered that semi-mindless household chores and errands lead to an aha moment. When my hands are busy but my mind is free to wander, a perfect opening line often pops into my head out of nowhere. The rest of the first paragraph usually follows in short order. By the time I turn the computer on and get it all down, the writer's block is gone and the article is well underway.
5. Tap Into Creativity
If despite all of these tricks I simply can't make the blog post happen, I find another way to get my creativity fired up. On low-energy days, that might mean paging through craft books for quilt ideas, browsing the web for innovative methods of repurposing old furniture, or checking out Pinterest for cute fairy garden scenes. When I am really motivated, I make some art using whatever technique feels right at that moment: sometimes paint, other times clay or collage. Something about creating -- even if I am not creating the article I intended to complete -- gets the brain primed for working at full speed on a variety of creativity-based projects. Usually, after focusing on something else for a while, I can come back to the assignment with a fresh perspective and an overflow of ideas.
If I may use a metaphor here, writing is a lot like driving on the highway. When you first attempt to merge into traffic, you are at a complete stop, with cars whizzing by at high speed. You need to go from zero to 60 pretty fast if you don't want to get splattered on the guardrail. The zero to 60 is the hardest part of the entire project. Once you are safely moving along with traffic, your momentum keeps you going. These five tips make the zero-to-60 part of writing a lot easier to manage so you can find your cruising speed quickly -- and meet your deadlines every time.
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