Conquering that dreaded blank page

You’ve done it. Got that precious writing time. Sitting there – fingers poised over the keyboard. Even, perhaps, a pen or pencil clutched in your hand with blank paper beneath. Ready to start writing and – and –

Nothing.

What now? Not too many people have the luxury of being able to wait for the muse. Journalists. Authors with contracts. Even if you haven’t got a strict deadline, time is going to be limited. How best to make use of it? I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks that I use to get going.

1. Start writing in the middle. Don’t bother with the first word, sentence or even paragraph. Try Paragraph 2. Or isolated sentences that you know will come in the middle somewhere. You can edit them in later. That’s what word processors are for.

2. Write anything. Get some words down. They don’t have to be perfect. If you don’t like ‘em, throw ‘em away and start again. Time spent doing this is more productive than time spent doing nothing, jumping back on to that game you left half-finished, surfing the internet or any of the 3,843,000 other things that, just now, seem more interesting than writing..

3. Re-plan the work. You did have a plan – didn’t you? No? Make one now. Include deadlines and target goals. An idea’s likely to drift in. Maybe.

4. Go and make a cup of tea. Try again.

5. If all else fails, write something else altogether. Remember Isaac Asimov? Apparently he used to work in a room filled with IBM Selectrics – spinning from one to the other. Word does that for us today on a single computer.

These tricks work for me, most of the time. Do they work for you? Do you have your own ways of kicking that muse into action? I’d love to hear from you.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2012

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6 comments on “Conquering that dreaded blank page

  1. ljclayton says:

    I have plenty of excuses I can share for NOT doing any writing.

    • Love to hear them – mine, just now are (a) Saturday morning laundry, (b) dealing with the garbage, (c) vacuuming and (d) making cups of tea for my wife. The stuff I have to finish today is a bit forlorn on the screen…

  2. KM Huber says:

    For me, the first two always take me into writing as they prime the pump, if I am in a difficult scene or having trouble clarifying a point in an essay. All I would add is that writing every day, pretty close to the same time, keeps my “little grey cells” in writing mode around that time.

    Karen

    • That pump-priming’s definitely essential. One of the problems I have is that I often get into the ‘zone’ about 28 seconds before dinner time, or something else happens that I have to stop for.

  3. [...] M J Wright gives 5 tips that have worked for him : Conquering that dreaded blank page [...]

  4. I tend to write individual scenes and then link them together later. I still get into trouble from time to time, when I have to write a scene that’s kind of boring. So, if I have my scene list created, I can simply find one that I feel I am ready to work on and have at it.

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