What’s the hardest part about writing? Ask anyone and you’ll likely hear the same answer: “Getting started.” Welcome to the curse of the blank page.
We get up from that blank page to get a snack, make a call, and anything else that comes to mind. We will do whatever it takes to put off having to write that first sentence. But alas, when we return, the page is still blank. “Writer’s block” is a real thing.
But once we get those first few sentences on paper or onto the screen, the words start to flow. In fact, it even becomes fun.
So, if the blank page is the problem, perhaps the answer to writer’s block is not to start with a blank page.
Ideas come at the most unlikely of moments.
Whether you’re a student with a one-page paper due tomorrow, a newspaper columnist with an article due Friday, or an author with a book deadline 6 months in the future, we’re all thinking about the writing project ahead. The perfect title pops into our heads while riding the school bus. A great closing sentence suggests itself while we watch TV. Three points for the paper suggest themselves during a walk through the neighborhood. (And by the way, if you can make three memorable points, you’ve done a good day’s work.)
The problem becomes simple: ideas are fleeting. You may have generated enough ideas during those odd moments to write the paper. You just can’t remember them when faced with the dreaded blank page.
What tool could you have at hand to trap those good ideas so they don’t get away? For my entire adult life, I’ve carried a pocket memo pad. A 2010 article entitled “The Pocket Notebooks of 20 Famous Men” shows I am in good company. In addition to providing paper for me from everywhere, it provides a place to keep credit cards, identification, and business cards. If you like pencil-and-paper tools, this one could be your answer as well.
Mobile phones are everywhere. With a free Evernote account, you have a place to trap elusive ideas. When I open Evernote on my phone, the very first note is the last note I changed. When I have a writing project ahead, I start a note for it. When a good idea surfaces, I open Evernote on the phone, tap the note, and add the new thought. Since the Evernote app on my phone syncs with Evernote on my computer, there is no curse of the blank page. All those random thoughts are right there and ready for me to connect the dots.
Each time you look at the note, improve it. Jot down the new thought, but also reword what you already have. Tighten the wording of a sentence here and there. Begin joining thoughts into paragraphs. Perform a Google search and reference other articles that support the points you make.
If you can trap the ideas as they occur to you and improve them as you revisit, the task of writing becomes one of merely polishing.