What strategies do you use to motivate yourself to write or produce creative work? Post your ideas below!
In the normal course of our working day, or in writing essays for classes, we will often be tasked with coming up with several pages of original writing. Oftentimes when we’re looking at a blank page or a blinking cursor on the screen, it’s difficult to know what to say. One thing to remember is that writing is just ideas put down on paper. Writing is as easy as thinking, walking or talking. When you eat or sleep, you don’t over-analyze the process, you just do it. And so it is with writing — you can do it almost as easily as you have a conversation with a friend.
Yet when there’s a writing deadline to meet, it’s easy to lose sleep over it. Many people have writer’s block not because they don’t know what to write — writer’s block happens when the writer starts thinking about what the reader will think, even before they write down a single word! Writers often fear they will be criticized, that their writing is a reflection of themselves. We fear what other people will think of us, fear of writing inadequately, of being boring, sounding stupid, or repeating ideas that have already been said before. Some writers may be self-critical and think, “Why would anyone want to read my opinions about this?” Othe
r writers may not identify themselves as writers, thinking “I’m a chemist, not a writer. How am I going to write about my research findings?” But you can worry about what people will think after the writing is done. That’s what editing is for. The important thing is to get the job done.
So what do you do when you think you don’t know what to write? Start scribbling! Take out a sheet of paper and write your topic on the top of the page. Close your eyes and start thinking about the topic. Think about what you would say if you had a conversation with a friend about the subject, and go through the conversation in your head. Better yet, call a friend and talk about the topic, and jot down your conversation.
Give yourself permission to write, imagining that the voice in your head, or even the blank page is saying “Go ahead, write what you want.” Write down little “pictures” of whatever comes to your mind, if the pictures are one-word answers, or even little doodles of your ideas. If you are feeling frustrated, start scribbling lines on another sheet of paper, (even poke holes in it if you want to!) until your mind clears again and starts thinking about the topic. Complete 1-sentence answers such as “I think that…” “The reason why…” “I like/don’t like…because…”
After 30 minutes of scribbling, look at the mess you’ve made. To an outsider, your scribbles may look psychotic and chaotic, and it should! — considering that our thoughts are often fragmented and run around in circles. Then start to piece the fragments together like a puzzle. What is your main idea or focus? What are the sub-topics to your main focus, and what is the supporting evidence? When you start interlocking the pieces your ideas will start to make sense, forming a logical picture that’s clear to your reader. Completely re-write your essay using the ideas from your initial scribble-fest. Your first draft of your essay may not be a masterpiece of a painting, but at the very least it will be a paint-by-number picture that your reader will understand and enjoy reading. And writing it might actually be fun for you, too.
So you’ve got a project that’s due? Start scribbling!
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