Getting started with a writing project can be one of the most difficult of all the challenges a writer will face. We dither, putter, doddle, delay and flat out procrastinate. Excuses run the gamut from the logical and believable to the outrageous – but somehow still believable if they prevent us from following any desire to fulfill a creative yearning such as writing.
And yet, when we challenge this resistance and make a start we find our fears dissolve in the face of the results we get. Doubt is replaced with confidence and imaginary obstacles recede in the wake of daily action. Once you begin, it’s a whole new ball game. And it’s one that’s a whole lot more fun than the scared little voice would have you believe.
So, to start writing the following 8 ideas will help you get past some of the more common excuses for not beginning.
Know Your Niche
Before you can begin to write, you need some form of direction to give your time and attention to. “I don’t know what to write about” is an often heard phrase among those yet to write. Nonsense. Of course you do. If you’re alive, then you have a myriad of passions, ideas, opinions, likes and dislikes, skills, talents, expertise, experiences and personal history to draw upon for inspiration.
Block out some time and write a list about your personal interests, hobbies and passions and the reasons why they’re important to you.
Expand your list to include your work and educational experience and any related skills or expertise. Then extrapolate your list into relevant niches or genres to find topics to write about. When first beginning, writing about what you know is an effective way to quickly develop confidence. It provides a natural source of creative ideas with no learning curve to go through. And after you’ve developed a level of proficiency you can branch out into unfamiliar territory.
Create Some Space
If you’re going to write, then you need a space dedicated to just that purpose. Why? Because your locale becomes part of your routine, and a huge part of success lies in the habits we develop. These patterns of success include setting up prompts and cues that lead to effective actions, in this case the action of writing. And having a specific location is a big cue.
It doesn’t have to be a large space with all the latest gadgets, but you’ll want somewhere all your own. A place to leave your tools and material at hand the way you want them to be. Having to clear the kitchen table of your writing gear at dinnertime is not conducive to developing flow.
And create your writing space with some physical comfort in mind – a good chair and desk with adequate lighting is a must if you’re in it for the long term.
Develop a Routine
As with having a writing space, developing a routine falls into the category of cultivating success habits (Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit is a great read on this topic). Whatever your schedule may be, incorporate a warm up routine to trigger the writing response. Invoke a prayer to the muses, line up your lucky charms, visualize a successful outcome, chant, dance or whatever gets you focused on the task at hand – writing.
The actions themselves aren’t important, it’s the intention behind them. You’re sending a preparatory signal to your brain, and subconscious, that it’s time to get down to work. Once your warm up is complete, start writing immediately to link the routine with the act of writing.
Commit to finding time for writing that will be free of distractions. You don’t need hours on end to get into the zone, 10 or 15 minutes a day is sufficient to start with. You may need to get up a bit earlier or wait until the kids are in bed, but do find a time that works for you. Because a set practice time is needed to develop skill and rhythm.
Have a Plan
Whether you’re writing a blog post or a novel, sketching an outline of your main ideas will give a solid foundation to build upon. Jot down the points you want to cover, then flesh them out. Knowing what to write about beforehand prevents overwhelm and getting stuck – you’ll always know what your next writing step is.
Do One More Thing
When you think you’ve finished writing for the day, do one more thing. Write one more sentence, find one more resource or simply review tomorrow’s schedule. By giving just a little bit more effort, you’ll summon the voice of your inner mentor offering congratulations for your dedication. Much better than the voice of the inner critic!
Get out of your jammies, have a plan, schedule the time and show up for work. If you don’t take your own efforts seriously, don’t expect success to shine upon you. Develop the mindset of a professional doing his work for the rewards due a professional (The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is a must-read for a professional mindset).
Make a Start
To get past the hang ups of perfectionism and self-doubt, just write. Don’t expect it to be perfect or even good – write for the garbage can. The point isn’t about finishing the project, but starting it. Fears of failure, not being able to complete your work, rejection etc. will all become a self-fulfilling prophecy if you don’t begin. So write. One sentence or even one word is enough to begin with.
And finally, when first venturing into the writer’s life, keep it simple. As with any new project, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
So give yourself the best opportunities for success by following the above tips to get started writing. Even if you don’t achieve a high level of commercial achievement, you’ll avoid the disappointment of not trying and will instead have the great satisfaction of knowing you followed your heart despite some initial fears.