I really know what it is like to ‘want to be a writer’ but not being able to write anything at all. I have always wanted to write but had very skewed ideas about the process. For one, I believed strongly that writers were either born with the ‘gift’ or weren’t. Also, I imagined the writing process to be smooth and uninterrupted. As some of you know, I was given the diagnosis of AVPD two years ago which is a case of extreme social phobia, so my snarky inner critic is a bit louder than some of you out there. Over the past two years, I have found some tricks that help tone down the inner critic and to actually get the writing done, hope it will help at least a couple of you. This article will be in three parts and today’s tips are to get yourself to start writing.
So part one is for people who suffer from extreme writer’s block and perfectionism like me ie when you cannot even get yourself to start writing. If you are already a writer who writes then it might not help you much.
- Give yourself small goals\ aim to be a writer, not a good or bad one: At this point, you are trying to get something on the paper. We will set plenty of time to judge and rip apart our own writing in the later stages, so now you are just writing. Period. It might be easier to start aiming to write something short and simple, like a flash fiction piece or a four-line poem. If the first ever time you sit down in front of that imaginary typewriter is to write a novel, it might overwhelm the already hesitant writer in you and kill the story even before it even takes shape.
- Use writing prompts: A prompt gives a starting point, it is that first step in beating a blank page. This helps to narrow down the thousand possible stories that we would want to write to something solid and specific. My friend L at her bookstore hosts open reading nights and gives out one word prompts like ‘disagreements’, ‘gift’, ‘boundaries’ etc as prompts . Prompts can help invoke memories or give a nudge to our dormant imagination to get to work. You can also take up sentences like “It seemed like a gift at that point..” and start to build something around it. Of course, this does not apply when you already have a specific idea in mind. eg: Friday fictioneers use photo prompts
- Listening with attention/ Talking out loud: This is a technique I learned in a writing workshop. The theme of the workshop was at home on planet earth and we were split into groups of two and were told to ask each other questions like, ‘what was your first memory of being with nature?’ or ‘What changes would you like to see happening in this world’ then we were given uninterrupted ten minutes to answer that question and later write down what we talked. It made the ideas appear more tangible and also helped trick the brain and distract the inner critic by making a story up by telling it out loud before writing. If you cannot find anyone to do this exercise with talk to yourself (Please don’t tell me I am the only one who does that!)
- Sketching or something like that: If both the ideas above don’t work, you can try sketching. Here also nobody else has to see it. So use stick diagrams or flow charts to get a basic idea of what you want to write. Even if nothing productive comes out of it, it will be a good creative stimulation for your brain. Sketching is one of the many possible creative distractions you can try, I mentioned it because it might be easily accessible to a lot of you.
- Give yourself a deadline or sign up for a writing challenge: Like the wise Calvin says believe in the power of ‘last minute panic’. A looming deadline can help us focus on getting things done than making it perfect. Finished is always better than perfect.
[Originality is overrated, so when your inner critic at this point tells you, what you are about to write has been written before and in a much better way than you will ever be able to do, tell the voice to take the advice and shove it.]
In the next part we will discuss some ways to prevent ‘killing the work midway’ and to keep the momentum going
Happy writing folks,