Have you ever thought about how cool it is that one second you are staring at a blank page, and the next you are filling that page with words?
I have. It was thinking about this that prompted me to start writing this blog post.
It sometimes seems, as you’re staring at that blank space in front of you, as if that’s not possible. Creating something out of nothing? How does that work?
It’s pretty simple, actually. All you have to do is take a deep breath and begin.
Just start with one word. It’s not nearly as difficult as you might think.
Before you know it, one word will become two, and two words four, and the words will continue to multiply until at some point you lift your hands from the keyboard and realize you’ve written a story all by yourself. You took an idea that just appeared in your head and you made a whole story out of it. YOU. YOU DID THAT.
When you feel stuck, blocked, sad, alone, unsure, unmotivated, uninspired, sometimes all it takes is placing one single word on one blank page. Because once you do that, the page is no longer blank. You have started writing something, and clearing that hurdle is a feat many aspiring writers never even come close to accomplishing.
Some see a blank page and freeze. They don’t know what to do with it. They don’t know how to transform it into a story. They don’t believe they are capable, don’t believe they have the power to make it happen.
But you do. You can.
So. What’s your one word? Write it down. Then write another after that. Form a sentence, a paragraph, construct a page. Don’t think about writing a whole chapter and especially not a whole book. Focus on the small things. Focus on that one word, and conquer that battle, and I promise you, things will not seem quite as impossible from there.
Writing doesn’t necessarily get easier as you go along. But that barrier to starting does become easier to knock down once you learn how.
Starting is hard because you’re thinking too much about how hard it is to start.
Stop thinking. Start writing.
Well, to be fair, you do have to put some thought into what you’re writing eventually or you’re just going to end up with a jumbled arrangement of words that don’t make sense in any context. But one word doesn’t have context. It doesn’t need it. It’s just a word. And it can be proof that you Did It. You Started Writing a Thing.
Sit down in front of your blank space, whatever that may be, and write the first word that comes to mind. Chances are the first sentence in whatever you’re about to write won’t start with that word. But your only goal here is to build a story off of that word. It’s kind of like a game, except by this point, you’re probably already frustrated and seriously considering giving up. (Don’t!)
Here. Let me demonstrate.
The first word that came to me when I told you to write the first word that came to you was boats.
I know nothing about boats, I’ve only been on a few boats in my life, but I think boats are pretty cool, so I’ll run with it. I’ll start writing a story about boats.
The next paragraph will come straight out of my head, no overthinking allowed, and will serve as the beginning to a story I may or may not continue writing at some point in the future:
When I rode the ferry to the island on May 14, it was like falling in love for the first time. Thrilling. Wondrous. Unforgettable. I’ve ridden on boats and fallen in and out of love plenty of times since then, and it’s not quite as magical as it used to be. Kind of like when you’re a kid and everything is cool and exciting. Once you grow up, you realize the ferry is just another form of public transportation. Nothing special. No magic to see here. But before I was forced to grow up, it was May 14, and the ferry took me to a place I had been dreaming about visiting my whole short life.
First drafts are first drafts and that’s all I have to say about that. But now I can’t stop thinking about the critically cynical character that has walked into my life and I kind of want him or her to keep talking? Moving on. (Or am I?)
See? That wasn’t so hard. I am exhausted and sick and anxious, but I just thought up a word and pulled the beginning of a story out of my brain. If I can do it, you can do it. Let’s see you give it a try in those comments.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.