The best ways to get over the “blank page hurdle”

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I write because it comes out — and then to get paid for it afterwards? I told somebody, at some time, that writing is like going to bed with a beautiful woman and afterwards she gets up, goes to her purse and gives me a handful of money. I’ll take it. — Charles Bukowski

Unlike Charles Bukowski, writing well doesn’t come so easily for a lot of us (including me). It takes a lot of mental energy, strains your working memory and often makes you feel vulnerable if you try to be open and honest in your work.

The pure effort of writing is hard enough, but coupled with the pain of putting your work out into the world and letting others judge it, this can be enough to stop you from getting started at all.

The trick to overcoming this isn’t easy, but it’s surprisingly effective: give yourself permission to write badly, and just start.

Anne Lamott, author of Bird by Bird wrote an excellent essay on why writers must start with horrible drafts:

I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much.

Anne’s essay makes me feel much better about the hard work of writing great content, as she makes it clear that all great writers struggle with their first drafts:

We all often feel like we are pulling teeth, even those writers whose prose ends up being the most natural and fluid.

So to get over the biggest hurdle—the blank page—just get writing. Don’t be afraid that your draft might be bad (it probably will be, but that’s okay.)

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything – down on paper.

10 Rules for Writing First Drafts

(Great infographic from Copyblogger)

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