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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Don’t Know How to Start Writing? Don’t Let That Stop You!

camouflageSometimes resistance is invisible because it disguises itself: “I’m not blocked, I just don’t know what to write about.”

Sometimes it partially hides itself: “I’m not ready to write; I don’t know how or where to start.

Not knowing is not a reason to stop writing!

Simple Solution #1: Stop thinking of “writing time” and start thinking “Product Time.”

When you showup for “Product Time,” there’s always something you can do to further a writing project or develop your writing craft. But “writing time” implies only drafting, revising and editing; in other words, the activities that make up Stage 5 of the Creative Process.

“Writing time” focuses on Stage 5; “Product Time” encompasses all stages.

Before you get to Stage 5, you won’t know – you can’t know – what you’re writing about and how to write. You discover what to write, how to write it, who you’re writing it for and answers to a whole host of other questions as you work your way through the other stages.

(You can read more about the stages of the Creative Process and what to do for Product Time in each stage in Chapter 4 of AWB.)

startSimple Solution#2: Start Where You Are

Write about what you do know and what you have. Feeling frustrated? Draft a frustration poem. Give the physical and emotional sensations of frustration to a character and see what happens to your story. Or research frustration and share what you learn in an essay, article or blog post.

Or draw whatever image is in your mind. Not a thing in your head? Then draw the outline of a page. Add the caption “blank page.” Add something else to the drawing. Maybe it’s an outline of your head, also blank. Add a caption “My blank mind.” Add something else. Maybe it’s a pencil inside your head and the caption is “My blank mind is drawing itself.”

Simple Solution #3: Practice Writing

Practice writing the way a musician practices scales. Select seven words at random, repeat the first word and start writing about those words.

Write about the things you’d like to write about someday. Write what you’re thinking.

Write a response to an exercise in a book. Search “writing prompt” on the internet and write in response to what you find.

Simple Solution #4: Use Your Questions

List the questions you have. Read the questions you had yesterday and answer them. If you still don’t have an answer, go find one. If you don’t know where to find an answer, ask someone else how s/he would answer the question.

Deeper Issues

I-dont-know-whereIf you think writing is supposed to be easy, it’s easy to give up when it gets hard. If you think you’re supposed to know where you’re going all the time, it’s easy to give up when you get lost.

You need to replace those beliefs with the awareness that there is nothing wrong with not knowing and there is nothing wrong with you when you don’t always know.

You may need to develop a greater level of comfort with uncertainty. What is already known and certain may be comfortable, but too much of it will stultify your imagination. Uncertainty is the birth place of creativity and discovery. Learning to embrace uncertainty will reduce your risk of being stymied by writing resistance.

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3 Comments on “Don’t Know How to Start Writing? Don’t Let That Stop You!”

  1. Joel D Canfield November 27, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Embracing uncertainty is a life skill most folks could use for a whole lot more than their writing.

    But any writer who’s looking for a sure thing on a straight path to happy happy joy joy is in trouble.



  1. When Waiting Leads to Writer’s Resistance | The Bane of Your Resistance - December 5, 2013

    […] Apply any of the tools and techniques suggested for when you don’t know what to write. […]


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