Sometimes the not knowing comes in the middle of an assignment or project; sometimes it happens at the beginning. Sometimes you won’t have a clue why you’re having problems, and sometimes you’ll know the cause precisely. There are solutions.
Starting To Write Helps
For example, when I was the Guide to Freelance Writing for about.com, I usually wrote my columns on Wednesday morning. One particular Wednesday I sat in front of a blank word file for several minutes, not having a clue what I wanted to write about.
I knew exactly why I couldn’t seem to get started. I had another project that was, frankly, way more exciting than another column about freelance writers or freelance writing jobs and I wanted to get started on it. But I needed to get the writing column out of the way first.
So I got up from the computer and paced a bit. Somehow getting up and moving often helps. It dawned on me that what I was experiencing happened to all writers at one time or another, so I sat down and started to write about the experience of not knowing what to write!
For me, knowing I will start writing shortly seems to be the key.
If I delay, stew and storm, go shopping, or take a nap, nothing will happen except the deadline pressure will build. On the other hand, if I actually put some words on paper, chances are I’ll be able to continue.
Writing Experience Equals Self-Trust
Now, I’ve been a freelance writer for years and I totally trust my writing process. It wasn’t always like this, of course. Back when I was just starting my writing career, starting any writing project was likely to be agony. Maybe I’d get a few words written and then I’d stop, erase them and start again. I’d repeat this process over and over again.
Fortunately I got enough freelance writing work done and published that I was actually offered an editing job for a church magazine. Suddenly I was in a position to see the writing of other freelancers. What a blessing!
Beginning Paragraphs Are Almost Always Dreck
It wasn’t long before I recognized that the articles submitted by beginning writers often needed the first two or three paragraphs lopped off.
I asked a more experienced writer about this and he said, “Oh I write those beginning ‘graphs too; I just have enough experience to erase them before I send in the article. I have to warm up as it were before the real stuff starts to flow.”
What a lesson! Just write and don’t worry too much about how the first few sentences or paragraphs or, if it’s a long project, even pages. Chances are they will have to be eliminated, but they have served as the pathway to get your creative juices flowing.
Write, and write some more. Write until you’ve exhausted either the topic or yourself.
Then, let the editing begin. Polish, prune, clarify, and reorganize until the piece is as good as you can make it.
Submit it, and get on with the next work. Do this often enough and you’ll end up a professional writer for sure!
What do you do when you’re stuck for ideas?
Image from http://www.sxc.hu