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How to write a blog post

when you're scared of the blank page

Three ways to handle fear of the blank page

Fear of the blank page is one of those things that can loom so large in the imagination that it stops us from writing anything at all. If you suspect this is affecting you, then read on. First of all, here are three ways to handle the fear of the blank page – by NOT starting with a blank page.

Don’t start with a blank page. Instead:

  1. Use cut and paste. Cut and paste a few words or images about anything: your life, a couple of memes, a picture of your cat and write a sentence about that. Then start.
  2. Draw on the blank page with coloured pens – get all your ideas out of your head.
  3. Use subheadings. In a notebook or journal, keep a record of ideas. As soon as you start to write, type out a few related ideas to use as subheadings.

This post is about the third of those tips: use subheadings.

1. Books and articles you love to read

Make a list of the books and articles you love to read. Anything you find intriguing, unusual, helpful, or that you really want to share with other people. This may need some setting up if your memory is anything like mine. In which case, use a journal or a clipping tool like Evernote to collect reading material in advance. When you start to write a blog post, use these as subheadings. Keep topping up your list and you’ll always have something to write about.

2. The Brain Download

Try getting all your ideas down on one big piece of paper or in one document and take plenty of time over it. Turn this into a mind map and use colour to annotate it. Have a break then start to order the ideas – a structure will begin to emerge. You’ll probably end up with enough material for more than one post. Once you’re done, you can draw around similar or linked ideas in one colour so that you can see where you might create a series of posts. Now create your subheadings.

3. Proactive Planning

Talking of planning, there are two broad schools of thought when it comes to planning:

  1. Don’t plan. Write a draft with no plan, simply getting words down on a page until you reach the required word count (I suggest basing the word count on similar, successful, blogs). Then redraft, shaping as you go. This is known as intuitive writing.
  2. Come up with a plan before you start. This could be a detailed sketch of the post, using bullet points for everything you want to say or it could simply be a rough outline. If you take this approach, plan the ending too, so you know when to stop.

There’s also a version of planning that’s halfway between the two. Write a bit, using the intuitive writing approach, then plan, then write a bit more, then reshape.

Still don’t know how to start? Try playing first. Yes, you read that right! Playing lets you off the hook. It’s fun, not serious and (hopefully) it’ll mean you won’t censor yourself. Here are three writing games you can play to generate material to fill your blank page:

Observation and ‘live’ writing

Close observation is a powerful technique. Begin by finding an object to look at. Make it something you can hold in your hand. Observe it closely – I mean really examine it in detail – bringing in all of your senses, for one minute. Now write about it.

Optional extra to try later: Have a go at ‘live writing’. Go out with a notebook – a park, a café, an interesting building, a museum, a gallery – and write about the place you are in while you are there.

List games

Lists allow us to let go of making sense, and of the idea that there’s such a thing as ‘proper’ or ‘good’ writing. They also allow us to get concrete words down quickly, without padding. Try it now. Think about the last journey you went on, from leaving your house to arriving. Make a list of words related to it.

Now focus on your front door in your mind’s eye, and moving through it from the inside to the outside. Think concrete words as much as possible, rather than abstract ones. In my case, I started with: dandelion clocks, seagulls, cats. Make another list of words describing what you see when you move through your front door.

Next, conjure up a front door or backdoor that you remember from childhood or from another place you lived. Make another list of words.

Create pairs of words

Use all of the lists you’ve created so far. Come up with pairs of words. Then use your pairs of words to write sentences. In this game, use only these pairs of words, plus any other words on the lists you’ve created so far, but you can add in small words like ‘a’, ‘the’, ‘to’, ‘at’ etc. Why are we doing this? Because the pairs games allows you to make interesting, unusual connections that you wouldn’t usually make, and that gets your imagination working.

These writing games work whatever you want to write because they’re designed to get round that internal censor that tells us our ideas are ‘silly’ or that nobody would want to read what we have to say. Once you’ve got over the fear of the blank page, your words will start to flow.

Let me know how you get on in the comments.

More soon. Until then, happy writing,

Lou xx

P.S. If you like this post, you’ll love 365 Writing Prompts.

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