Often times, my students will be very nervous about how to approach a writing assignment. They simply have no idea how to get started, and in some ways, I may find myself conflicted as to the best advice to offer.
I know the techniques that work for me, but what works for me may cause a student to roll her eyes and think I have no idea what I’m talking about.
Well, of course, none of you would ever roll your eyes at your well-intentioned and experienced professor, but alas, some students do. That, however, is for another post!
What I am going to write about today is a very simple method that if you do it, like the cyclist pedaling away in the picture above, will help you reach your destination.
My method of getting started is rather opaque for some writers, but here it is: just get started.
What does that mean?
Well, after you’ve dealt with all of your procrastination gremlins and you finally have yourself sitting in front of your computer and you’ve duly checked all your social media sites as well as any great sales for online shopping, you are now ready to begin.
So, what do you actually do?
Just Start Writing
I have mentioned this technique in a previous post, but if you are truly at a loss, try freewriting.
The way to do it is to quite literally just start writing. Open a word document, or whatever format you write in, and begin with a phrase like, “I have no idea what to write.”
Try to move on from there. Write whatever it is that comes into your mind and get it on the page. This is somewhat like brainstorming, but you are doing it in a way that involves writing complete sentences.
Setting a timer helps for some people. Fifteen minutes is usually a good amount of time to at least get something down and to feel if anything comes from it.
The idea with this exercise is that while you are doing it, you have in the back of your mind the task you want to do gently bobbing around like an unopened package that has been dropped in a relatively shallow body of water.
It’s there and all you need to do is pick it up and unwrap it. But getting to it may take a little effort and concentration.
Get Past the Mental Chatter
In my case, I usually use length of page as my time indicator. I tell myself I will freewrite for one page or two pages. I’ve done more pages in the past, but it all depends on how much time you have.
Sometimes I freewrite just as a focusing exercise to get all that mental chatter out of the way so that after a couple of pages I am usually better able to focus on the writing task that I wish to achieve.
If in Doubt
Freewrite. Why not try it right now?
Give yourself a timeframe of ten minutes (more time if you have it). Allow the writing to flow, unimpeded, for that duration of time.
Don’t even worry too much about grammar or punctuation. All good writing has been proofread, edited, revised and revised again (and again).
This is truly an exercise to get ideas flowing, so you can be a little less grammar conscious here if you feel that worrying about that is taking your focus away from getting words on the page.
You may feel inclined to follow the stream of consciousness in your mind. That is absolutely fine. Whatever it is, the result is not meant to be judged as to whether it is good or not.
It is to be seen as a means to get the writing flowing and to get you closer to your writing goal.
Did you try the exercise? Was it helpful? Leave a comment and let me know!