By guest blogger Sue Mitchell
Oh, the irony! I suggested to Milli that I write a post about not letting questions and uncertainty stop you from writing, and here I am staring at the blank electronic page, stymied by the question, “How should I start?”
I know I’m supposed to grab your attention right away, but how? Totally stuck on that. In fact, I’ve been wandering around asking myself that question for a couple of days now, ever since I agreed to guest post on Unleash Your Writing! and suggested this topic. What was I thinking?
Take note: I am writing. Even though I still don’t know the answer about how to start.
And, as it turns out, starting with a real-life example like this makes a lot of sense. Good thing I went ahead and started!
In my work with creative folks, I’ve identified six essential components of a productive creative practice. One of them is Starting. But how can you get started in your writing if you still have questions like:
What should be my hook?
What examples should I include?
How will the conflict in this story be resolved?
Should I even be writing this, or is my other idea better?
What’s the word I’m looking for here?
At the risk of sounding inane, the answer is that you can start by starting. You don’t need to let unanswered questions stop you from working on your draft. Here’s why:
• Often, you’ll discover the answer in the process of writing, as I did here today.
There’s something about having a place to land, rather than existing only in your mind, that makes ideas and answers flow more easily.
• Your subconscious will continue to work out the answer while you’re doing other things.
In fact, your brain really doesn’t like to be observed while it’s working. It prefers for your attention to go elsewhere while it hunts around for what you’re after. Letting go of finding the answer is a great way to allow the answer to be revealed.
I call these questions that your subconscious is working on “seed questions,” and I joke that all they need to germinate is a little water (perhaps from the famously idea-generating shower) and openness to receiving the answer.
• Writing is non-linear.
That means that you can skip around the parts you’re stuck on for now and get busy with the parts that feel less uncertain.
• You can use placeholders.
When I was writing the draft of this post, I had trouble coming up with many examples of questions you might have while writing, even though I knew we all have them. So, in the list above, after writing “What should be my hook?” and “What examples should I include?” I simply wrote “[insert other examples here]” and continued on. Just leave yourself a little note and work it out later.
You could do something similar with entire passages or even chapters. Not sure how to explain something? Just put “[explain this somehow]” and keep going. Need a scene leading up to the turning point of your novel but not sure yet how you want it to flow? Insert “[add setup scene here]” and move along.
Maintaining momentum is critical to the creative process. Anything you can do to get started and keep going means your message will be shared with the world sooner rather than later.
What questions have stopped you from writing? Have you experienced an aha after letting go of trying to figure it out? What techniques have you had success with that allow you to keep going even when you’re not sure about some aspect of the writing? I’d love to hear your insights!———
Sue Mitchell is a veteran teacher and certified Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach who specializes in supporting novice memoir writers. She believes everyone has a story worth telling and loves to simplify the process so that anyone who wants to can reap the benefits of lifewriting. Pick up her Creative Block Buster Checklist at www.YourMuseIsCalling.com/gift.