Ever had a brilliant idea for a story but when you sit down to write your mind goes blank? Maybe it is a brand new idea and you get stuck on how to begin or maybe you are half way through a project and just get stuck on starting the next section. Either way it can be incredibly frustrating, am I right?!
Sometimes it feels like inside my mind all this magic is happening that somehow all fits together easily and beautifully, but when I sit down at my desk it's like an elusive unicorn always just out of reach. Writing can feel similar to trying to remember or explain a dream. The picture feels really complete in your head, but when you try to put it into words it starts crumbling and makes no sense at all. So here are five ways you can enter into a story if you are stuck on how to begin.
Do you love listening to podcasts? Do you love being part of a supportive, happy writer's community? The Beautiful Writer's Podcast combines these two things seamlessly to create hour long sessions that feel as if you are sitting down with your best writing friends and having a cup of tea.
This week I was reminded of how scary getting started can be. I wanted to sign up for a course that I had been looking at for a while but was feeling overwhelmed by time constraints, financial pressures, feelings of being a fraud, and all around like I should be focusing my time, money, and energy on other areas in my life. But, I also kept thinking that this was something that was important to my soul. The course would offer me designated time for myself every week for 12 weeks. It would give me new skills and knowledge in an area that I am interested in. And it would nourish my heart, even if it was draining other more practical areas in my life.
This is the same feeling I often have when starting a new writing project. I know that it is good for my soul, but I can make a long list of reasons why it isn't good for the rest of my life. I don't have the time, work is too busy right now, I can't afford to dedicate time to writing on a regular basis, my family needs me 24/7, I can't afford the support that I will need to help me write this. And these are the just the practical reasons! The list of emotional reasons is often much longer. I'm not a good writer, so what's the point. This story isn't that interesting, so what's the point. No one will ever want to read this, so what's the point. I am a talentless, worthless person, so what's the point. Things can get dark fast.
The hesitation to get started, or more appropriately, the huge wall that blocks the way to getting started, always seems to go back to fear. Fear that I am not good enough, that the work will not be good enough, that I can't balance writing and life, that I will have to give up too much of my daily life. Fear, fear, fear.
So, how do you move past fear in order to get started?
Not just a series of essays, but a philosophy to live your creative life by.
I love reading books about writing and the creative process. I am always learning new ideas, new methods, new thoughts. And Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear is one of my favourites. It is set up as s series of thoughts, lessons, and examples of living a positive creative life, under the headings of Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust and Divinity. Gilbert shares how she has taken her love of writing from a young age and been able to persevere in the face of rejection, failures and extreme successes. Not really self-help, not really creativity how-to, this book is more of a presentation of a philosophy for living a creative life full of positivity. Yes, positivity, not struggle or torment for the artistic journey, but uplifting, calm, in touch and happy to ride the ebbs and flows of the process. Or, what Gilbert calls “stubborn gladness”.
I read The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy a few years ago and it has always stuck with me. The simplicity of the concept nudges at the back of my brain whenever things get hard. Whether it be things in life, in relationships, at work, or in my writing life. Full disclosure, it has been a while since I’ve read the book, so what I took away from it may not be the best representation of the book, but this is what stuck with me. Small, consistent steps towards your goals are more powerful than large, irregular ones. I have found this to be incredibly useful in many areas of my life, but especially in my writing. I have never gotten a story written in a handful of long sittings. Maybe this is just my personal writing method, but I find that I only ever finish my works in progress when I have short consistent writing sessions. On my current novel in progress, I even set myself just thirty minutes a day! But you know what, that thing got written!!
So, why does this idea work for me in my writing?
For a few reasons.
Firstly, I work a full-time job on top of writing and running Cozy Writer’s Room, so time is scarce anyway. Giving myself only thirty minutes feels doable amongst a busy life. I can also fit thirty minutes in during the morning before I leave for work. Mornings are my most productive writing time, so it is important for me to write early, but also before I get distracted by other things in the day. So, schedule restrictions are a big factor in the short writing sessions.
Secondly, I find I can ALWAYS write for thirty minutes even on days when I feel completely and totally blocked. This is a big component of why this style of writing works for me. You know those days when you just can’t see what comes next in your project? Or you feel like a total waste of space writer who has nothing worthwhile to say? Or you just wake up hating your novel, your characters, the entire thing up to that point? Or, any other of the myriad things that can block your creative process? Yup, I know those days too. And those days are really hard to write through. I’ve tried writing for an hour or longer and when I come across these blocked days, that hour or so feels like the most daunting thing I have ever faced. It becomes a mountain that I am not equipped to climb. I’ve found that thirty minutes is my sweet spot. Even on these terrible days, when I tell myself I only have to write for thirty minutes, my brain says okay, sure, I can do that. It’s only half an hour. It’s barely any time at all. I can fake being interested in this for thirty minutes. I can fake having something to write for half an hour, then I can go make a cup of tea and get on with my life. Maybe your sweet spot is longer or shorter than mine, but finding that time frame that my brain seems to think is no big deal even when the going gets tough, was a big eye-opener for my writing process.
Hi, I'm Lia! I'm an author and the creator of Cozy Writer's Room. I believe in the power of storytelling and love helping others tell their stories using simple productivity tools like printables!