Blank page phobia

Facing the dreaded blank page is often the absolute worst thing when it comes to writing for business…well, writing of any kind in fact!

I have spoken with a few people recently about how this really puts them off starting work on a website, blog or newsletter. They don’t know where to start and the overwhelming feeling they get when they see the blank page staring back at them, with the cursor blinking, fills them with dread.

I can appreciate that feeling. I admit my approach to writing has always been to ‘just go for it’ … it certainly helps the blank page disappear! However, there are some down sides to this approach. My first draft often ends up containing lots of waffle; the structure is often not the best because I am just ‘dumping down’ whatever is in my head and I do spend more time editing and reworking, than writing.

This blog post will try to offer some tips and methods that could help to overcome your fear of a blank page and make you think about an effective writing style for you.

Add words to the blank page

The heading doesn’t exactly sound like my most refined advice I know, but let me explain. Rather than thinking about what to write or how to start, go for ‘easy wins’. What I mean by this is write/add text that is simplistic. For example, write a couple of keywords or a title for what you are about to write about. Doesn’t have to be perfect, just explanatory.

Copy (and paste) text related to what you are going to write about. For example, if you are writing an essay, copy out the question on to the top of the page. Or if you are trying to write a profile biography, copy out any descriptive text you may have been given about character length or a description of what they recommend you include. Perhaps even copy and paste some profile descriptions you like to have on the page in front of you. If you are trying to write a blog post, type up any written notes you may have made about the topic. Just bullet points are fine.

Focus on an easy way to start getting something down and doesn’t harass the brain too much!

Create a framework

Take baby steps…think about a framework for what you want to write – can you reorder some bullet points you may have already jotted down in to a more coherent order? If you are writing a newsletter or blog post, can you create a list of headings and perhaps subheadings? Then for each of these add some bullet points, notes or short sentences about the content that will accompany them.

You will then have a structure around which you can add a narrative; fleshing out the text into a completed document. Don’t feel you have to do all of this in one sitting however. Create your framework (headings, bullet points/notes) and then come back to write it up another day.

Reflect on the type of writer you are

As I mentioned above, I am a “jump in and start typing away” type of writer. I like just tapping away and editing and organising my thoughts later. I enjoy the editorial process (unsurprisingly) – refining, reordering, adding sentences here and there, and deleting others, to make the finished product sleek and well shaped.

Interestingly, my husband is the complete opposite. He can take well over 10 minutes to write a couple of sentences, but that is because he will take his time and compose what he wants to say in his head first. When he actually types something on to the page it is ‘perfect’.

He may read back through what he has written, but will generally need to make very few changes. It takes the same time for both of us to write the same amount, but it is just a different style of working.

So, have a think about your style. Think about writing you find ‘easy’ – perhaps a social media post or an email to a friend. What processes do you go through? How much planning do you like to do? What helps to shape what you are writing?

Also think about when to do your writing. When do you have time to focus? When do you feel more relaxed? Can you break the task down so that it only takes small chunks of your time? I love blog writing in the evening. It somehow doesn’t feel like a job if I am sat on the sofa with the laptop (and perhaps a glass of wine!).

 “I’m not a writer, I’m a speaker”

There are many people I know who can speak about a topic fluently and clearly, but then when asked to write it down, they really struggle. If this sounds like you, consider speaking what you want to write, perhaps after making a few notes or creating a framework to guide you. You can record yourself and then type it up. There is even an array of software which will type as you speak. You will still need to edit what you ‘said’ when it is in written form and move things around, but again the blank page will soon disappear.

 

I think so many people are afraid of writing or getting it ‘wrong’, but don’t. Writing is such an important way of sharing ideas. In a digital world, writing can be instantly updated or corrected (and even removed) from a blog or website, for example. Don’t let that blank page hold you back…fill it!

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