When Your Writing Mind Goes Blank

Heh. I’ve just spent a couple of frenzied hours scouring the web for video writing courses. I quickly found and bought a class on polishing your writing, and I watched half the course before I realised I wasn’t looking for knowledge on craftsmanship – I was looking for something to get the words OUT.

I resumed the search for courses and found one that seemed promising. Instead of going into the mechanics of writing, it covered the anxieties that writers face. Y’know, ‘How much should I reveal of myself?’, ‘How do I overcome the crippling self-doubt?’, and so on. Still, I wanted to be careful with spending more money, so I found a way to phrase my problem and googled it instead. A Quora page named ‘Why does my mind go blank when I’m about to write?’ caught my interest, and I read some of the answers.

Now I’m writing.

I’ve done this a lot over the years: I’ve felt the need to write URGENTLY, been paralysed by the thought that I have no ideas, and started hunting for something that’ll drag something – whatever – out of my head. It’s like I just stopped knowing my own mind. Of course I know my interests, but when I want to write about them my mind just goes blank.

It scares me how willing I was to throw money at whatever seemed helpful just now, when the answer was free and took me moments to find. It reveals just how horrifying I find it when my mind goes blank. When I want to write, but can’t. Or think I can’t.

So what was the answer that allowed me to finally write tonight? It was this:

If you are of the first type (like me), it typically helps to have a mood, style, image or even a fragment of language swirling through your mind as you sit to write. It could be from a novel you are just reading, something you just witnessed, a piece of music you heard, a movie you saw or even a deep emotional spike you just had (anger, fear, laughter, frustration, etc). These typically evoke responses that are usually framed by the ‘feel’ (for lack of a better word) and sets the mood for what you write. I always rely on music to drive the feel of what I write. There are numerous other hacks too. For example, you could pick the first word you come across at random and begin to construct a sentence in the broad framework of what you are looking to write. The first few words don’t matter except they serve as the base from which you either build on naturally or decide to throw it away and retype different ‘first few words’.

Yep. I keep coming back to this idea of using a tiny fragment to work with. Every time I’m reminded of this technique, I get writing. It’s like my rigid ideas about structure and story planning and sentence structuring and captivating the audience and BLAH BLAH just melts away. Holy crap, does it feel good. I need to put that quote on a post-it and hang it on the fridge.

I can’t believe I almost spent 40 dollars on help I found for free on Google, guys.

Moral of the story: Don’t panic. Get back to basics. Start with the very first building block.

Don’t spend 40 dollars on writing courses until you’ve calmed down.

(See the whole thread on writer’s block here.)

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