Few things are more intimidating than a blank page, a report to write, or a proposal to develop or a task to complete. It’s easy to get sucked in by the blankness of your computer’s screen.
A little pause as you check your inbox.
As a professional writer, I have to deal with the dreaded blank page regularly, and I’ve developed strategies for quickly overcoming this obstacle and moving on to the next stage of the writing process.
Listed here are the top five:
1. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
When struggling to write the first few words, the temptation to answer that nagging message or rearrange your digital files is strong.
There will always be a handful of lesser but more pressing jobs you’ll want to knock out of the way before diving into your main objective for the day.
By the time you get through them all, the day and probably most of your energy will be long gone.
Before giving in to these urges, consider the consequences of putting off the assignment until you’ve wrapped up your more pressing work.
Don’t rush to find the solution if it isn’t an emergency.
2. Divide the Work into Manageable Bits
There’s a good chance you’re feeling overwhelmed with the thought of writing a 30-page report.
However, the first two pages detailing the topic’s introduction might not be as daunting to write.
When working on a challenging book, I would give myself a small victory dance every time I reached the dotted line at the end of a page in my word processor.
You don’t have to go to such lengths, but you will get much more done quickly if you divide the task into smaller, more manageable chunks.
3. Divide Your Time into Chunks
Setting time limits for oneself to entirely focus on the task at hand, followed by brief but necessary breaks, is another helpful strategy.
The Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that has been around since the ’80s and helped me and many others get through large projects is based on this premise.
It’s most popular among programmers, but in my experience, it’s also useful for writers.
Francesco Cirillo, the method’s developer, employed a timer in the shape of a tomato, hence the name. A standard Pomodoro session consists of 25 minutes of focused work followed by a precise 5-minute break.
Stop doing these for a while after the fourth time around. To get more done in less time, it helps to know that a break is coming up soon.
4. Make a Terrible First Draft First
Anne Lamott is to thank for this advice, albeit she describes it with a less pleasant word than “terrible.”
It’s far simpler to edit than it is to write something from scratch, so get something down soon. Let it go, regardless of its quality.
You can improve your poorly written first draft once you’ve finished it.
Even if you made it hastily, you might realize it’s not too horrible.
5. When You’re Finished, Reward Yourself
When we’re working on a massive project, we’re bound to encounter that four-year-old part of ourselves that resists discipline and wants to run around and play.
Therefore, praise your inner child whenever you complete a project or a significant segment.
The incentive may be anything from a quick round of a favorite video game to a day of shopping or viewing a special sporting event. Whatever you do, be sure you enjoy it.
In order to get through the next challenging activity, it will help to provide oneself with positive reinforcement.