A blank page is scary. It is filled with possibility, but sometimes it’s really hard to know where to start. Maybe this is why I struggle with a lot of the writing-related tasks that I have at work; because the page is always blank when I start. I focus more on that blank page and how big of a task it is to get some of these big ideas out of my head and onto paper that I struggle to get anything out at all. I have some ideas about how to make the blank page less scary:
- Make an outline instead of trying to write down paragraphs at a time. Once I’ve got an outline, I can start to put some flesh on the bones.
- Start writing what I know needs to come out of my brain.
- Just start writing words. Maybe they don’t mean anything or are terrible, but at least the words are coming out!
- Eliminate distractions. Shut down every other app I might be using that could distract from this task, and turn off all notifications. Get in the zone and just go for it.
- Have a goal. Write for 15 minutes. Or 30 minutes. Or 300 words or 1000 words. Usually when I start small, I end up exceeding my goals anyway, but a small goal is better than no goal at all. If I’m in the flow state, I’ll keep going, but if not, I’ll stop.
Journaling is one of the habits that I want to get better at. Just like writing down tasks that I know I need to get done into a task manager helps clear my mind of all the things I need to do, journaling can channel those abstract thoughts that are rattling around in my brain as well. I’ve never had a good journaling practice, and I am working on starting to improve that practice now. For Christmas, I got a “One Line a Day” memory book, and I’ve been consistently using it every day to write down a brief summary of the day. It’s inspired me to start writing even more, and now I’ve begun writing in a personal digital journal using Ulysses.
For journaling, I’m going to try the following:
- Take an inventory on where my thoughts were during the day, and write about that.
- Write down things I want to change in my life and write about that.
- Write about habits that I want to instill in myself, and write about how I’m doing in each of them.
- Write down things I’m grateful for.
- Put into words the way I’d rate the day. What went well, and what didn’t go so well? On a scale of 1-10, how did the day go?
- What did I learn today?
- With whom did I make special connections today?
- What goals do I have, and how am I getting closer to success on each of them?
- What is something I could have done better? What is something I did amazingly well at today?
All of these could easily be prompts that form the skeleton of a daily journal entry.
For blogging, one thing I’ve always struggled with is coming up with clever blog posts that I think people will find interesting. This has led me to be much more critical of my writing, and so sometimes I end up not posting for very long periods of time (I can go years between posts!). One of the things I’m going to start doing is writing for me instead of for an “audience”. Some of the journal entries I write based on the prompts above will probably become blog posts if they’re not too confidential or personal, and that’s great! I’m also using Ulysses to write these blog posts because if I start writing a journal entry that ends up being a blog post, it’s super easy to publish it since I don’t have my writing in various locations.
Writing is a great skill to have. It opens your mind and empties it onto paper (or digital paper) so that one can think clearly and more easily articulate thoughts in a concise way. It’s a skill I want to endeavor to grow in, and like any other skill, the only way to improve is to keep doing it. What are you doing to improve yourself?