One of the strategic partners with whom I work has a great saying:
“Overcoming the tyranny of a white page.”
He is referring, of course, to that point in a writing project when you generally have an idea of what you want to write — but have trouble actually putting pen to paper.
Or when you need to start a proposal for a new client, and just can’t seem to find the words to put in your memo or slidedeck.
We’ve all been there.
Here are three ways I’ve found that are effective at getting the ball rolling to overcome the white-page tyranny:
1) Get Your Ideas Down ASAP
Sometimes the best ideas come to us when we’re thinking about or doing something completely unrelated. They could be ideas for a blog post, a new business venture, or a new business proposal. The important thing is to realize that this idea may not be stuck in your head for long. Write it down immediately. I rarely have a pen and paper handy, which is why I love voice actions on my Android phone and the ability to leave a “note to self” directly to Evernote, Google Keep or Springpad. Never underestimate the ability of your brain to completely forget great ideas an hour (or 15 minutes) after they pop into your head. In fact, the idea for this post came yesterday while I was writing a proposal, and I stopped what I was doing to jot a note down in Google Drive — and came back to it today.
2) Stream of Consciousness
Don’t worry about creating a Picasso in your first draft. Just start writing. Get words on paper — even if those words don’t make much sense. Sometimes the most difficult part is just getting ink on paper. I find that, if my first few paragraphs are nonsensical, it kicks my “editor brain” into gear to to fix what I wrote — which usually is closer to the content I need. Break through the paralysis and just start writing.
3) Use your Lifeline
Fortunately, I work with strategic partners on many of my projects. In some cases, I just can’t seem to get started on a proposal — so I kick the can to them to get started. In other cases, they kick the can to me. Sometimes, we just feel the need to get on the phone and hash things out to kick start our brains. If you’re working alone on a project, you can still reach out to a lifeline. Call a friend; maybe a consultant in a related industry; maybe someone in a totally unrelated industry. I’m amazed how many times, we get a sentence or two into our conversation when my friend/colleague says some trigger words that kick my brain into overdrive.
There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank white page and not being able to find the words. Sometimes, it’s not just paper — it’s a blank thought process as you try to think of a new business idea or creative process.
Whether your use my three tips mentioned in this post, or some other pieces of advice, the key is to just start moving.
My kids love the Disney movie, “Meet the Robinsons,” which features a world-famous (in the Disney world) inventor. His favorite motto is:
“Keep moving forward.”
While that mantra is so very suitable for any entrepreneur or creator — it certainly is great advice for overcoming the tyranny of the white page.
Take that first step. Write your idea(s) down. Put pen to paper. Talk to a friend.
Keep moving forward.