This is the second post in the series of tips on facing the blank page posts. Most of the tricks here are useful only for people like me who struggle with extreme perfectionism and a very loud inner critic (virtual hugs to my fellow AVPD buddies). In the first post, we discussed some tips that can help start writing, which you can read here. Today, we will discuss some tricks that can help you keep the momentum going and to finish things.
Start with what you know: Now that you have decided on a starting point we can start doing the actual writing. It might help to trust your first instinct. You know how a smell can invoke dormant memories from years gone by in a flip second? Writing prompts can have the same effect, so if for example the word ‘disagreements’ quickly reminds you of a disagreement that happened with someone you love, start writing about that no matter how trivial it might appear to you.
Practice free fall writing: After starting to write, the next challenge is to keep the momentum going. There is a very high chance that we abandon the writing at this stage. The two main hurdles that I have come across are : First, waiting for that ‘perfect word’ or ‘perfect sentence’ to appear and when I fail to reproduce how beautiful it appeared in my imagination to words I freeze and stop- the workaround that has helped in this case is to practice free-fall writing, just keep getting things down as they come. Treat the first draft as the rehearsal that nobody is invited to, so mistakes and goofs are allowed and encouraged even. Second , getting lost in different plot building possibilities, it is like arriving at a junction and not being sure which path will efficiently lead you to where you want to reach. Here it might help to just give one of the options a try and see how it goes. If it doesn’t work we can always come back and take another route.
Try making things up: This might seem counterintuitive to the first suggestion. But once you manage to get the flow going it might be good to take some liberty with the plot. One of my favourite authors Elif Shafak has said, ” that it might not be always good to stick to the write-what-you-know policy”. As long as we are not writing a factual document a writer has the freedom to let the writing stroll freely in the meadows of imagination. If the real event that inspired you to start writing seems dull after a certain point, then just pepper it with interesting tidbits or humour. There is no limit here
Try from a different perspective: This is one advice that has helped a beginner like me a lot. Once, I wanted to write a story where an old lady finds a frog and thinks it is her dead husband reincarnated. But I was getting stuck and the prose ended up being very dull, so my friend L asked me, “Why don’t you try writing it from the perspective of the frog?”It seemed like a ludicrous idea. Until then I had only written in my first person perspective, so this helped me get out that routine and try something new. I ended up writing a children’s story of a talking frog.
Try a different genre: This is an extension of the previous suggestion. Sometimes we put limits to our writing with labels like poets, memoir writers etc. While it is totally okay being a genre writer it also good to remember that a poet can also write killer short stories. Challenge yourself to write in a different genre. Even if you end up settling back to the genre of your comfort, the sojourns to other fields might help stretch the limits we set to our imagination.
See it through: It is a great practice to always try to finish the pieces you start. This was and still is the hardest struggle I face. Usually, midway through writing, I have this epiphany that what I am writing is horse poop and then I rip the paper apart and stuck it down the trash shoot (or click the delete button violently). It is easier to finish a 100-word story than a novel, so it might be helpful to start writing shorter pieces and then working the way up. Finishing things can do great wonders to our confidence as a writer.
What are some things that have helped you in keeping the writing momentum going?
Next post will be the last one in the series where we will discuss some general practices that can help improve our writing.