I wrote a post offering a quick way to get past a blank page using the here-it-is, ain’t-it-great, however, approach. That works for emergency situations, where you just have no idea at all where you are going.
If you have more time, here are four ways to get started:
This one is from Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. She recommends starting each day by writing three pages of freehand streaming thought. Don’t punctuate. Don’t edit. Don’t correct spelling and grammar. Just write. Then either save it or toss it. It is not about content; just clearing the mind of garbage.
She suggests writing long-hand, but I prefer to use my computer. Her three pages come to about 750 words in your word processor. I save mine. They make great reading months and years later.
The Hemingway Method
Ernest Hemingway was a very prolific author, but he still had his blockage days. What was his method to get started? Just write a single true sentence…any true statement. The statement does not have to apply to what you intend to write, but it helps. Don’t spend time thinking about it. Just write it. You can tie it in later or toss it.
This is also a good way to get started on your morning pages.
If you have a break in your writing session, he says to always write the first sentence of the next paragraph before taking the break. It gives you a head start when you return.
The Classic Story Method
Barbara Minto wrote about this method in her book The Pyramid Principle. [Yes, it is out of print; difficult; and very, very expensive, but also very, very good.] Using this method, you will have more of a plan and feel less like a panster. This builds the logic of your writings.
She says that you should start with a description of the situation. [Here it is. Ain’t it great.] Sometimes the Hemingway Method works here. If you are building a strategic plan, this is the Problem-Vision-Mission statement.
Every situation has a complication. [However]. If it doesn’t have a complication, you don’t have a story. If you are fleshing out a strategic plan, these are the obstacles that must be overcome.
The complication raises a question. How are you going to do this? What will be your strategy?
Then you can provide the answer or answers. Here is where you describe what you will actually do. These are the tactics in your strategic and operational plans.
Fascinate Your Content
She lists 21 ways (obviously) to structure your story that will fascinate the reader. She likes that word.
Some of them include:
- Start with information, then add insight (see above.)
- Show us the implications of a trend.
- Go on a rant. This is a favorite of mine.
- Ask a provocative question (see above.)
- Ask for opinions.
- Find the good. Click here.
She has a lot more, with examples.
Sometimes you just have to immerse yourself in information about the subject and take a break. Walk around with a coffee cup and talk to everyone you run meet. [If you are in an office, carry a piece of paper and wander briskly. People will think you are going somewhere important.] You may have to sleep on the problem, but keep a pencil and paper handy, The best ideas come at 2 a.m. and are fleeting.
The blank page is not the end of life. There is always a way around it.