The scariest moment is always just before you start.
~ Stephen King
Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.
Just sit. And stay sitting. This is harder than it sounds.
The beginning of each writing session is the most difficult part. In fact, every single time I sit down to begin writing, my brain rebels. I want a snack (even if I’ve just eaten). I remember the laundry. I start pulling at the strings unraveling from my sweater. The beginning of each writing session feels doomed. I think to myself that nothing will be accomplished today. I can’t imagine anything good will come out of me the way that I feel. I seriously consider just putting it off until tomorrow.
I’ve found, though, if I keep at it and simply acknowledge my desire to eat popcorn or throw in a load of laundry or unravel my sweater until it disappears, if I say, Later, brain – right now we’re working, I’m probably going to end up putting some good words on the page.
If you can make it through the first few minutes, if you can actually get the words to begin flowing, you’ve jumped the highest hurdle there is. And, if you can do that, you can handle the smaller hurdles that you’ll encounter along the way.
Just Sit: Ignore all your excuses and just write. Sit down and resolve to ignore your brain’s pleading and whining for at least a half hour (if you can work this long). If you need to start with a writing prompt or by brain dumping everything that’s on your mind, do it. If you start every writing session with the words, “I don’t know what to write,” that’s fine. Just keep going.
Scribble on the Snow: If you’re intimidated by the blank page, write out a few notes, a bit of your outline, a quote that captures what you want to say – anything to keep yourself from staring at a field of white.
Chart Your Sessions: While you’re batting away excuses and complaints, while your mind is grumbling, make a mental note of how you feel and of how well the words are flowing. Is there a hump you have to make it over before your writing really gets going? After enough writing sessions, you’ll begin see a pattern, and once you realize your mind’s pattern, sitting down to start writing won’t be quite so frightening. Just knowing that it takes, for example, fifteen or twenty minutes for your brain to get up to speed makes those fifteen or twenty minutes more bearable.
One True Sentence: Tape this quote to the wall where you write:
You have always written before and you will write now.
All you have to do is write one true sentence.
Write the truest sentence that you know.
~ Ernest Hemingway
It can be difficult to start a writing session from zero, to begin by staring at a blank page or a new chapter, to get our brains revved up and excited to write when we’re not already brimming with ideas. Our friend Ernest Hemingway had a remedy for that, too:
The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day . . . you will never be stuck.
~ Ernest Hemingway
Leave yourself a little something for your next writing foray. Make notes, if you need to, so you can easily pick up the thread where you left it. Let the unfinished thoughts ramble around your brain until it’s time to write again.
Leaving Breadcrumbs: Think about the times when, as a writer, you woke up feeling energized and excited by your work. Was it partly because you knew what was coming next? Can you pinpoint a moment in your writing session that might be a good place to stop, a place you can come back to later that would feel raw with energy and possibility? Try working to that point and calling it a day. Come back to the page tomorrow and see if your mind feels more motivated to start writing, more inspired than it usually does.