Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When You Have To Write Something, But You Don’t Know How To Begin

’I sat down to write but nothing clever came across my mind’ I said to my English teacher when she asked me about my homework. ’Then you should have written something stupid’, she replied.

How many times you had to produce some piece of writing and you found yourself staring at white paper (or computer screen) feeling hopelessly drained from any idea how to start? And the clock was slowly ticking out the hours before the deadline for the submission of your written work!

In this post I am going to tell you how I cope with this problem.

Create working conditions where you can concentrate and focus on the topic that you are writing about.

Some people do not mind noise while writing, others like to have music playing in the background or on their headphones, but not me. To write effectively I need peace and quiet so I can listen to my own thoughts. Easily done at home but it can be a problem when I am in the office. At work I am surrounded by creative people who like to listen to music while working, to laugh and tell jokes and to pull pranks on each other so sometimes it can become rather complicated to concentrate. Fortunately, our office has a patio so I grab my pen and papers and I go outside and sit somewhere in the shade and do my writing there. Sometimes I go to a street cafe and do my writing there. Luckily for me, my bosses are more concerned with the result of the work and less whether it was done inside or outside the office.

If you cannot write something clever, write something stupid.


You already know who gave me this piece of advice. The best way to unblock your creativity when composing a written work is to actually start writhing! It might seem stupid in the beginning, but the more you write, the more focused your thoughts will become and you will begin to write whole passages that you will be able to use in your final work.

Write down the key words and thoughts on the topic you are writing about.

Whenever you are thinking about something that you are going to write about, important facts, statements, messages, ideas, etc. come across your mind. They usually pop up chaotically in your head. If you first try to organize them in your mind as complete sentences and passages, and then to write them down, you will run the risk of loosing the initial energy that they contain and you will end up wasting valuable time thinking and not writing. I prefer to write down everything that comes into my mind and, once I have all the facts and ideas collected, I arrange them in their right order and only then do I start writing.

Ideas for my first book
Plan the passages

No matter what you are writing, a business report or an e-mail message to a friend, you should always plan in advance the sequence of the things that you are going to write about. Make quick notes about what you are going to mention in your text in the form of sentences with bullets and then arrange them into a logical sequence and use it as a reminder while you are writing.

Write on several pieces of paper


I usually write my texts on several pieces of paper. This way I can have enough space to write additional notes and remarks in the margins, to add words in between the lines, to draw arrows, to crisscross the parts that I do not like any more and to combine and rearrange passages the way I feel like it. In the end, my notes often look like a terrible mess to a stranger, but to me they are perfectly logical. Now I just have to type everything into the computer and to edit it.

Sleep on it, then write and rewrite it

When you think too long about the thing you are creating you tend to loose the perspective of its real value. It is always useful to put it aside for a while and then to go back to it tomorrow or even a few days after tomorrow. In the meantime you will get emotionally detached from the work and be able to spot the parts that should be improved or even completely erased from the text. But beware. You must also learn when to stop making changes, otherwise you might spoil the good work. Do not expect to reach the perfection every time you write! Instead, be happy in the knowledge that the work in front of you is much better than the work written before, and much worse than the work you are going to write in the future.

Try to do everything in advance

The sooner you start writing your assignment, the more time you will have to do the research, to look for inspiration if you get stuck, to ponder over it... And once it is finished, you will have enough time to do final rewriting and editing. I know that this is usually not the case but I am also certain that, if you organize yourself better, you will probably find some extra time to put into in your writing.


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