The Dreaded Blank Sheet of Paper
Updated: Jul 24
I meet so many people who hate that dreaded blank sheet of paper. They are far more comfortable with editing a piece already written than carving out the words themselves from scratch. Does this sound familiar?
Well, don’t fear, because there is a formula to help. Here are my tips for how to get started with any piece of writing.
Just before we get into my tips, I feel it’s important to share with you the key reason why I have never been put off by a blank sheet of paper: I realise I don’t have to get it right first time. I see a lot of people trying to perfect their opening sentence or poring over the first paragraph before anything else has been written. But what they’re trying to do is in fact impossible. You can’t perfect any piece of writing until you have it all laid down. You need to get it all together and then polish it up as a final piece. And that is the same whether it’s a 500 word blog or a 100,000 word novel.
So whatever you’re writing, take it bit by bit. It’s the easiest way to tackle it and it will give you a much better final outcome.
1. Plan Your Points
Begin with planning what you’re going to say. What exactly is the point of what you’re about to write? If it’s a piece of marketing content then you should just have one main point and about four or five mini points within that. Just bullet point them for now so you have clear guidelines before you begin to write a word.
2. Blast It Out
I don’t believe in writer’s block. Writing anything is a process of drafting, therefore you need to keep working at it to get it right. Your first draft should just be a blast of everything in your head relating to the key topic. I often leave out the introduction to begin with, or skim over it quickly. I focus on the bulk of the piece, and then the introduction is easy to write. Basically it just needs to introduce everything I’ve written. The conclusion is the same principle, but it sums up what you’ve just said. That means the only thing you need to worry about at first is the body of the text. Just start writing and see what you come up with. Don’t worry too much about it at this point. Get whatever is in your head – however good or bad it may seem – onto paper, and then tackle the finer points later.
Now you’ve got something down, probably in a very rough state, it’s time to polish it up. I often go over it a couple of times and then leave it an hour or so. If you can get to look at it with fresh eyes, you’ll see things you probably wouldn’t notice if you don’t take a step back.
You only need to worry about the spelling, grammar and typos right at the end, when you’re happy with everything else. If you’re able to, it’s always good to get someone else to read it. It’s so hard to spot mistakes when you’re too familiar with the work. And if you’re going to use something like Grammarly, do so with an open mind. The English language is far too complex for a computer to get it right all the time. My computer often flags up issues that I know don’t need correcting. Don’t always assume your computer knows better than you.
5. Get professional help as you need it
Finally, the most important thing is, know your weaknesses. I write copy for people every single day, but I’m good with words not good with every topic. Sometimes I’ll take my client’s rough ideas and polish them up. Other times I’ll just proofread what they’ve written. If you’re writing your own blog, it’s important to have a voice of your own and it can be very beneficial to do it in your own way, even if that way isn’t perfect. However, if you’re writing website content or news articles, you must get it right. Mistakes here can be costly.
Whatever you’re trying to write, always start off in a very simple way. From blogs that I write like this to the novels that I write that are significantly longer, I would never try to perfect it until I’d got to the end and had it all laid down in some sort of format. The redrafting process may take a little longer, but if it gives you a much better final product, then it’s definitely worth it. And, what’s more, you’ll be far more confident in what you’ve written.