I Blank when I Try to Write
It happens to all of us. We finally have managed to get our bums in chairs, have two hours when the kids are at soccer practice, and the dishwasher is running. Okay, ready to go! And blank. Blank screen. Blank mind.
As the minutes tick by and nothing happens, the frustration mounts. Come on!
If this happens frequently, you might have writer’s block, but often it is just that you need to trick yourself into starting.
Trick yourself—do a mise en place
Mise en place. In cooking, chefs often will have all the ingredients weighed out, the pots ready, and the utensils assembled before they start to create. You can do the same thing. Tell yourself that you’re not going to write, you’re just getting ready to write. You can:
- Open and name a new file. If I was going to write, which I am not, what would the file name be? If you start obsessing, just use the date.
- Set up the formatting. Of the writing you are not going to do, should it be double spaced or single? Indented? Paging.
- Make a few notes of thoughts to include in the piece. Just a couple of things that you want to remember to include if you were going to write. Which you are not. But might want to describe that street scene from last week. Jot down a few points to evoke it.
- Any character names you particularly like for this piece? Which you are not going to write. But Anna’s a nice name. Dark hair, I think. Sort of plump—so she can always be fretting about dieting.
- If you were going to write, which of course you are not, what might the opening sentence be?
And usually by this time, you are well into the writing. I know this shouldn’t work—after all, you’re tricking yourself. Don’t you think you’d pick it up? Well, I may be slower than most, but honestly, it works.
Other ways to fill the blank space
If the first suggestion doesn’t work for you, you can also try:
- Keep the fingers moving. Seriously, just type gibberish—sdfgdfgsdfgsdfg—over and over. The act of typing can sometimes kick-start the brain into writing. Or it does it to avoid the boredom—either way, you win.
- Start your engines, gentlemen, please. I literally type “Okay, start your engines, please, gentlemen (yeah, yeah, I know, sexist). It is 10:15. I will write for 30 minutes until 10:45. No stopping. No games.” I sometimes set an alarm. Doesn’t have to be thirty minutes. It can be five. But no stopping and no diversions.
- Write drivel. After all, we all do it which is why the blog is called From Drivel to Magic. But when we are getting SERIOUS, we can’t be driveling. But if you are stuck, just write about anything. The blue of the sky (clichés are acceptable when drivelling), the freshness of the breeze, the color of the African violet. But not pick up milk, renew that book, make the doctor’s appointment. Stay in the moment.
If you use these techniques as a way to let yourself loosen up, to open up to the lovely pieces which are waiting to be born, then the trickery is worth it.