The blank page is to many authors what a large audience is to a shy and introverted soul asked to give a speech. Terrifying. And it doesn’t help when writing friends are completing that next chapter, submitting another short story to an anthology, or simply garnering another 50 readers to their blog.
Before succumbing to the terror of the blank page, know that there are things you can do to bolster your writing confidence and hopefully increase your productivity at the same time. Here are some ideas you might try and some thoughts for your own writing journey:
- WRITE BADLY - Yep, go out and enjoy using redundant phrases, sloppy attributions in dialog, or poetic and superfluous adjectives to your heart’s content. Make a game of it. Try starting a story with one of these clichés and see if a spirit of fun doesn’t just take over your creative time:
- “It was a dark and stormy night. . .” (check out the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest if you get something good going here)
- “She looked into the mirror admiring her glossy brown tresses . . .”
- “He wore his disappointment like a badge of honor. . .”
Remember: not every piece of writing you do has to be publishable or profitable.
- MAKE A MESS – I used to try to buy pretty notebooks with kittens and puppies and happy sayings on them, but I found I never wanted to write in them. I feared writing the “wrong thing,” and messing up the perfect bound books. Now I buy cheap-o notebooks and often intentionally slop up a page or two. Kind of like breaking in a new pair of sneakers—what’s a little mud-slinging among friends? If you only write on a computer, try hand writing sometime--very freeing, and confidence building.
- WRITE NEW – Stuck in a rut with your romance writing? Try taking some of your favorite characters and putting them into a horror story. Or try writing a poem (I once wrote one about my Jeep—still have and enjoy it). Or a blog post for the RMFW blog. Or a real love letter. Sometimes taking a "vacation" from what we normally do, increases our ability to focus and be productive when we return to our work.
- WRITE SHORT – Think in terms of filler articles for your favorite magazines or e-zines, or maybe enter a flash fiction contest. You probably know a lot more than you think you do. The competition is fierce for these articles today, as the filler is a disappearing form of writing (a filler is a tiny article, joke, anecdote, or other copy that used to "fill" print space in the old days of typeset layouts), but more and more companies' websites need short blog posts, Twitter tweets, and other "content" for their social media. It's opportunity for the flexible writer, may give you some ego-boosting clips and maybe even put a few bucks in your pocket.
- WRITE DAILY – Okay, no guilt here. I don’t count words completed in a day. Tried that. Led to increased guilt over the time I wasted counting and tracking words “completed” instead of writing something I could call commercial fiction. Instead, I try to keep that cheap spiral notebook with me for when an idea jumps to mind. There’s a notebook on my nightstand and one at my desk. I have notecards in my purse for emergency moments of brilliance, and there’s always my dictation function on my phone if all else fails. Jot down fun stuff like character names, titles of books you’ll write, a run-in with a nasty total stranger (did I ever tell you about the guy at the dog park I almost punched?) and, of course, a plot twist that will go into your next novel nicely.
And here’s a bonus tip—most of us write because we simply cannot go without writing. But when we get caught up in the “business” of writing, we lose both our fresh voice, and the thing that brings us to the writing table—our creativity. Deep breath. Relax. Write.
If you have ideas to share, please do! I’m always on the lookout for a great motivational tip.
ON ANOTHER NOTE:
Tomorrow, Saturday April 23, RMFW will host its quarterly board meeting. If you’re interested in how our all-volunteer organization gets things done, or want to get more involved yourself, please join us at the Sam Gary Branch Library, 2961 Roslyn St, Denver, CO 80238. The meeting starts at 1:00.