One of the most intimidating aspects of writing is the blank screen. That cursor flashes, just waiting for words to flow. Inspiration. Thought. But what if nothing comes?
I think that’s the way it goes with much of life. We have a task before us, but we don’t always know where to start. My natural tendency is to wait until inspiration strikes – or I’m out of time. I hate working tight up against a deadline, but I often find myself doing just that because the inspiration just has not struck.
How much better it is to just go ahead and do something.
I’ve learned a few things through my years of writing (and tackling other projects) – tips that help get started. I confess that I’m not always diligent to follow these tips, but I’m getting better. Whatever your task may be, perhaps these tips I’ve learned from writing will help when you’re tempted to await slow-arriving inspiration.
Start with a Question
Whatever the task, one specific question always seems to help: What is my goal? In writing, if I have a sense of direction, I can usually hammer down the details more readily. Just tapping out the purpose of my article helps formulate a flow in my mind.
The same is true of many other tasks and projects. We often wander aimlessly if we don’t have a specific goals.
A more specific question is also sometimes useful – one that directly pertains to what you intend to say or do. In writing, I often use a question as my opening sentence, then attempt to answer it through the course of an article. Sometimes the question stays and sometimes it is replaced with a more declarative opening. Either way, the question provides a framework in which the rest of the article can develop.
Start in the Middle
Have you ever noticed that a project often ends very differently than it starts? We plunge in to the task, confidently plowing ahead. Suddenly, something shifts. Perhaps we hit a snag in the plan. Or maybe we discover more depth. As a result, the starting point no longer encompasses the task ahead.
If a clear goal has been established and the task ahead does not require a starting-point foundation, beginning in the middle can be very helpful. In writing, it allows me to get to the meat of what I’m trying to say. Once I have the meat, it is much easier to go back and introduce the article.
Start Somewhere and Do Something
Ultimately, starting is really the key. Whether I start at the beginning, in the middle, or even at the end, I must start. Whether I attack the easiest portions of the task to get into a groove or dive right into the hardest tasks to get them out of the way, I must do something.
It’s easy to put off a task because we thing that we don’t know where to start or what to do. But, the truth is that we just don’t want to think. It’s easier to put something off than to devote brain power to diving in. Or perhaps we are afraid that we’re not really up to the task. What if we fail? As long as we don’t start, we won’t fail.
But we won’t succeed, either.
Even if the results of my first effort end up in the trash can, they always serve a purpose. They get me going. Active. Moving. And that, my friends, is the key.
Whatever stands before you, may I encourage you to just start? It’s worth the effort.