Whether the blank page is paper or a computer screen, the effect is the same. It’s blank. How to get started?
For me, I start long before I sit down to face the blank page. My rational mind and my imagination have frequent play dates when I’ve gotten an idea for a story, and I let them work out some kinks before I commit anything to paper/computer file. But sometimes I feel a powerful urge to put words down, to see them in front of me, to make the process more concrete. Let’s face it, so much of what writers do while developing stories resides in the mind. Seeing words on paper encourages my mind and imagination that I’m serious about what they’re telling me.
Recently, I’ve had two main ideas banging around in my head. One is for a science fiction short story, and the other is for a series of essays that draw on my experience with the medical world during the last eleven years. Neither has emerged as the priority. Today, for example, I’ve been thinking a LOT about the essay series. A couple days ago, it was the short story and its structure that preoccupied me.
As hard as I work to make the development process linear, my mind refuses to cooperate. It’s like riding a bucking horse. Do I manage to stay on? Not for long.
I’ve read articles in which writers talk about starting by writing out an outline, or writing character sketches, or writing the ending. Other writers talk about just putting the behind in the chair and writing. They figure out what they’ve written later and how it fits into the project they’re working on or not. Creativity knows no standard process, no linear process. Creativity flows and all writers can do is encourage the flow, remove any obstacles, be there for the flow. Allow no room for discouragement.
One of my favorite things to do to get the flow going? I walk. If I’m walking inside, I listen to classical music on a personal CD player. I rarely listen to music when I’m walking outdoors. There’s too much to look at, smell, and hear. More often than not, my mind goes off walking too, in its own way, exploring my experience in the last 24 hours, who said what to whom, and then lazily circles back to think about the writing project I’m working on. By the time I’m actually facing the blank page two things have happened: one, I’m excited; and two, I have enough about setting, time period, characters and action to start putting words on the page.
The medical world essays have been a different mind experience. I decided weeks ago that I wanted the tone of the essays to be conversational. My mind and imagination have interpreted that to mean public speaking. They’ve been working through the various topics for each essay as if I needed to give a speech on each one. This is weird. I don’t like public speaking at all. But for some reason, this idea unlocks the flow.
Because each writer’s mind and imagination differ from every other writer’s, it makes sense that each writer would have his or her own way of encouraging the flow of ideas and words so that when he sits down to put words to paper, there’s something to write. Have you considered your creative process lately?