This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
When it comes to writing, people often say that getting started is the hardest part. I'm not sure this is true; finishing a book is pretty hard, too. Come to think of it, the long slog through the messy middle is tougher than an armour-plated warthog. However, getting started has a bad reputation because of one thing; The Dreaded White Page.
Plenty of folk will line up to tell you that you need to 'just do it' as if you're living in an advert for sportswear, but I'm not going to do that. I understand your fear. I understand that it's real, it's scary, and, sometimes, utterly paralysing.
The good news is that you're not alone. Most (if not all) writers have felt this way at least once in their lives. Talent doesn't make you immune, nor does the true, heartfelt desire to write. There have been plenty of amazing writers who have said that they prefer 'having written' to writing itself (Douglas Adams to name but one).
And there's more good news, too; there are ways you can trick yourself into productivity.
First off, admit that you're scared and that the thing you're trying to do is difficult.
Don't pretend the fear isn't there, or tell yourself that you're stupid to feel it (or lazy or whatever other negative words you use to beat yourself up with).
Try to get specific about what's worrying you. It could be that your inner perfectionist is worried that you're going to mess up a good idea. Or, worse still, you're frightened that you have no ideas. Perhaps there's a voice that sounds uncannily like a critical teacher or unsupportive family member. Or, perhaps, you know what you want to write, but you're afraid to put it down. Afraid of what people will think of it and, by extension, of you.
Recognise those vicious little voices for what they are; fear. Fear does not have higher authority and fear does not speak the truth. Put it – kindly, but with great firmness – to one side.
Secondly, accept your imminent failure.
Or, to put it another way; embrace the suckage. Whether you're just starting to write or you're on your tenth novel, the first draft is going to suck. It's what Anne Lamott reassuringly calls 'the shitty first draft'. Don't worry! Everything can (and will) be fixed in the rewrite. There's a James Thurber quote floating around the internet that helps me and it might help you, too: "Don't get it right, get it written."
Thirdly, just do it.
Okay, I promised I wasn't going to say that, but here's the thing: the only way through the fear is to write. The only way to get inspired is to write. The only way to finish a book is to write. The only way to… You get the idea.
So, set a timer for five minutes. There are loads free online, or you can use a kitchen timer, your phone or, if you're feeling old fashioned, a stopwatch. Then, write for those five minutes. If you're completely stuck just write that: 'I'm completely stuck and I'm trying this daft idea I read about on Novelicious and I'm feeling a bit tired and I really want a biscuit.' Whatever you like.
At the end of five minutes, you may find you want to carry on. You've scuffed up the page, after all; it's no longer that dauntingly pristine field of white.
However, if you do stop after five minutes, you still get to count it as a 'win'. You vanquished the white page. You faced your fears and wrote something and, hopefully, the five minutes were painless enough for you to consider doing the same the next day. And the day after and day after that…
[Image credit: Adorable spotty egg-timer is available from Omlet for £5.75]