Getting Started…

fbpicnew0509Well readers…we have a new face to welcome to the lineup here at Freelance-Zone! Meet Erin Dalpini, our new contributor…read more about her in the “About” section on our site. But for now…here’s Erin!

Picture this: you’re sitting at your desk, staring at your computer screen, which is displaying a stark white word processing page—an empty canvass waiting to be filled with verbs, nouns, conjunctions, punctuation—and you’re waiting. All you have to do is simply begin moving your fingers and the sentences will start to form, but you catch yourself staring at the cursor as it blinks away at you (such a tease!) and intimidation sets in. How to begin?

Maybe this is a non-issue for you. However, one of my writing hold-ups is finding the perfect way to get started. Whether I’m working on news, features, creative nonfiction or a book review, I tend to spend a hefty chunk of my time crafting the perfect introductory statement (how was that one, by the way?), and only when I am moderately pleased with what I’ve created—subject to change later—I will push forward.

Along my writing journey, I’ve picked up a handful of tips for getting started from some of my favorite writers, some of which I’ll share here…

*Shi*%y first drafts: Author Anne Lamott writes a great chapter about this in a book she filled with golden nuggets of her writing advice, “Bird by Bird”. In short, Anne suggests that we just need to write as fast and as hard as we can, and then we can fix it up later—essentially just get out of our systems what we need to say, then edit later. (I love this advice because it helps me get over my perfectionist hang-ups and once I’ve gotten started, sentences fly by!)

*Set a mood: In Carol Shield’s novel , “Unless”, the protagonist, a writer, has a routine each time she goes to write: each afternoon, she walks up the stairs to her special box room, she brews a pot of tea, etc. It sounds so charming—if you have the luxury of an attic nook! Maybe your writing habitat is the local library, Starbucks, or your desk, but wherever it is, setting a mood in order to get started can really help. Ordering your favorite coffee drink, listening to your iTunes “Writing Mix,” lighting a candle—these are all great ways to set a mood.

*Break it up: Gretchen Rubin, author of the popular blog and New York Times bestseller, The Happiness Project, believes that productivity can be achieved in small doses. She found that she was most efficient in her writing when she scheduled it in between activities: “Ninety minutes turned out to be the optimally efficient length of time—long enough for me to get some real work done but not so long that I started to goof off or lose concentration”(83).

*Wander: In, “If You Want to Write”, writer Brenda Ueland suggests that to set the creative process in motion, the best thing to do is to talk a nice long walk: “For me, a long five- or six-mile walk helps. . . . When I walk in a carefree way, without straining to get to my destination, then I am living in the present. And it is only then that the creative power flourishes” (pp. 36-37). (I must admit I actually haven’t tried this one because it sounds somewhat counter-productive, but I imagine this might be especially helpful if one is struck by a mild case of writer’s block.)

Being relatively new to the freelance world, I’m interested: How do you get started writing? Have you developed or found tips that work well for you?

2 thoughts on “Getting Started…”

  1. I utilize Shi*%y first drafts! I find that if I just get something–anything–on paper, I can go from there quite easily…

    I do like what you said about “setting the mood” though…very cool. I’ll try a candle next time!

  2. If I’m really stuck, I read. Not the back of cereal boxes (that just gets me more stuck!), but anything creative will usually get me going. Also, I don’t worry too much about the quality of the first draft. To me, it’s like a sculptor looking for a block of marble or a chunk of clay…your first draft is all about getting some good material that you can sculpt into a story.

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