How to simply START writing

* Note: these principles apply to any type of writing – a creative piece, a job application, a paper, business copy, your LinkedIn profile, etc.

Sometimes you’ll sit down to write, and the words just come flowing out. It’s like you’re under some kind of mythical spell, and you are the vessel being used to bring forth the world’s next great source of literature.

More often than not, this is not the case.

Here’s how it probably goes down:

  • You know that you need to write X.
  • You sit down to write X.
  • Nothing comes out and you get discouraged.
  • You put off writing X until the last minute.
  • You sit the night before X is due, struggling to string two words together, wishing you could be curled up in bed watching Netflix instead of trying to write X.

Sound familiar? It sure does to me. Luckily over the years, I’ve pulled together a few trusty tips that tend to help me when all I need to do is to start writing.

  • Tell someone what you really want to say, and then write it down.

I find that so often we can articulate our main idea, but we can’t seem to get it in writing. Tell a colleague, call a friend, or even tell your cat, but say those ideas (your story) out loud. Then, don’t worry about how it sounds – just get those ideas down.

  • Brainstorm.

Brainstorming means there is no expectation for quality writing, ergo, no pressure whatsoever. Remember that there are no bad ideas in brainstorming, be extremely gentle with yourself, and see what threads you can pick out that will help you tell your story.

  • Draw a comic.

Even if you’re like me and can only draw stick figures, try not to balk immediately at this one. The beauty of starting with a short comic strip is that it takes off the immediate pressure to write. You can focus on how to express what you want to say (your story) in a few drawings, with a bit of dialogue. Then, you can build on what you’ve started.

  • Gather your evidence first.

If you’re writing a paper, gather your quotes. If you’re writing a cover letter, bullet-point your accomplishments you want to highlight. If you’re writing your About Me page, list the three most important attributes your audience should know about you. Once you do that, you have set yourself up for figuring out what theme (story) ties those pieces of evidence together.

  • Make an outline.

Hey, outlines aren’t just for kids. You can either download one of the million templates available, or just sketch out your own. Either way, it doesn’t feel as daunting as writing that first sentence, and you’ll have your entire story at a glance, meaning, you’ll feel much better starting to type.

So, the next time you sit down and immediately draw a blank, rather than delaying the inevitable writing, try one, two, or all of these tips. Let me know how it goes! In the comments below, I would love to know what you try when you’re having trouble starting to write.