I spoke on enjoying writing and writing better to a group of businesspeople a couple of weeks ago. After I finished, one person commented that he’d thought I would spend more time on how to get past “writers block.” I answered that, if you know the story you want to tell and why it’s important, you should be able to start writing.
But that set me to thinking about better ways to kickstart the writing process. I progressed slightly further along this path when I accepted the assignment to create a sort of MadLibs® worksheet to help church members write their own psalms, a slightly annotated fill-in-the-blanks format with prompts such as:
O Lord our God, blessed be your name for your ________________ [works or attributes]
I/We give thanks to you, O God, for __________________
Rescue me from ____________________________
And finally, I saw a Facebook post from a friend on her own writing … and not writing. She does occasional travel blogs, but has been grappling with her inability to write more often. Because she is also a talented photographer, she has decided to concentrate on posting more images, with written comments.
I told her that my Examiner pet column always starts from one or more images, such as the ferret with attitude above (mentally, I tagged this one,”What’re you looking at?”). Well, “always” might be a slight exaggeration. I might start instead with an idea to write about, say, hot weather and pets … but then I always find at least one photo to embody my idea. And sometimes I take my camera to the dog park, or the ferret shelter or the stables for Friends for Therapeutic Equine Activities, specifically to get photos that will illustrate a column about some aspect of dogs in [fill in blank] weather, ferrets and the people who care for them, or riding therapy.
But perhaps the best way to get past the “what do I say” quandary is to just start writing. For me, the most freeing revelation is to recognize that you may well throw out much or all of what you write when you’re still struggling to find your proper theme. What I write … what you write … doesn’t have to be perfect as it first comes out of your head and onto a page. The first draft is where you start, not where you end.