Have you ever found yourself staring at a blank page, a deadline screaming in your ear? Or been in the middle of a story, essay, or assignment and wondered how to get out of the dead spot in the middle? Here are a few tips that can help keep you writing.
For some people, staring at the blank page can be one of the singularly most terrifying moments. To over come the first page, the key is to begin. Once that first word is written, it can get easier. Next time you are ready to begin a new project, prepare the night before. Open a new word document, put your name and contact information in the upper corner, get the formatting set, then type a simple word like your main character’s name, the topic of the essay, or simply Once Upon a Time. Then close the document. Tomorrow it will be ready for you.
How many of you hand write your first draft? You know, with good, old-fashioned paper and pencil? I used to. Then I realized it was causing me trouble. I love the look of a fresh page of ruled paper. Even better if it is in a journal. There is such potential. The problem, I found, is that once I marred the paper with lead or ink, I kept criticizing the words I used and how I wrote them. Disgusted, I would begin again only to have the same reaction. Now that I type my first draft, I can easily erase a mistake that irks me. For other, the opposite is true. So find the medium that works to keep you writing.
The more you write, the easier a time you will have identifying your first hurdle. It often comes after the introduction. The characters are set, the thesis is established, then… what? Outlines can help overcome this hurdle because they literally tell you what come next. For those of you who don’t outline, or for those of you whose outline isn’t helping, first try taking a short break. Do stretches, anything to get your blood moving. Then write. Get a new piece of paper or document or put a marker where your previous work ended. Then write every word that comes to mind, if it means writing, “I’m stuck. I’m stuck. I’m stuck,” fifty times. You should break free in no time.
Middles are tough. Just ask a Dachshund. Or your latest work in progress. The Middle Doldrums are the stuff of legends. There are whole books written on how to overcome this problem. Here is one writer’s advice on how to conquer this problem at the source.
Because I tend not to outline, the conclusion of a story is as much a surprise to me as it is to my readers. The problem with that is, once I figure out the ending, I still have to write it down. I find this is when revision becomes my friend. I write what amounts to a thin, outline-ish ending, then fill in the meat of it later.
Are there other places that trip you up as a writer? Is a particular area – beginning, middle, or end – tough on you, too? What keeps you writing through the bumpy times?