Whether you’re writing a book, an article, or simply starting a personal journal, there’s always that moment. You know what it is: a writer’s worst nightmare, the moment you come face to face with the blank, empty page. You’ve been thinking about writing for ages, coming up with interesting ideas in the shower, threading sentences in your head all day long… but when you actually sit down; you don’t know how to start writing.
Nada, nothing, zilch.
Believe me, after years of writing stories and content for myself and other brands, I’ve been there countless times. I was in it just a few minutes ago, before I started scribbling this introduction in an unapologetic tone. Those years of experience have taught me that learning how to start writing is more about embracing vulnerability, pushing through the awkwardness, and sticking to it even after the excitement and momentum are gone.
How to Start Writing
Most people believe the myth that writing is an ancient elvish craft that can only be performed in a monastery at the peak of the highest mountain. That only those who prove worthy are visited by the muses and blessed with the grace of eloquence and prolific writing.
If this sounds too much like a fantasy, it’s only because that’s what it is: a myth, fiction.
The secret to starting writing is… simply, you know, to write.
Seriously, just write.
But I suck at it!
Who the fuck cares? Just write for the sake of it.
You are not contractually tied down to being good at it! At least, not yet.
When did it become mandatory to be good at something just to do it? People should sing and paint and write just because it brings them joy, without feeling the urge to be good at it to do it. That’s why karaoke is such a hit, people feel liberated, finally able to do something they enjoy without judgment and self-consciousness.
Singing, painting, writing… almost every way of artistic self-expression, is a skill that you practice, a muscle that you train, something that you practice, and less about some supernatural talent bestowed upon you at birth.
Think of the first time you did something:
- rode a bike,
- kissed someone,
- dance salsa,
- smoked a cigarette,
- had sex.
Were you any good at it? Probably no. Did you get better over time? If it was something you enjoy doing and did it consistently, I’m sure you did.
Why would it be any different for writing?
But I have no idea what to write about!
Write about anything. Seriously, anything at all. Anything that will get the ball started.
No, I get it. It sounds insane but, hear me out.
I think for all of us, being new at something or doing something we don’t think we’re good at it is incredibly vulnerable. Even when you’re excited and committed, once you actually sit down to write; the struggle hits you right after the excitement and it feels awful.
You might start hearing what Amanda Palmer calls the fraud police coming for you. There’s a lot of vulnerability, uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure, and, let me tell you, writing – just as doing anything for the first time – is the epitome of vulnerability.
I have a nasty tendency whenever I’m doing something new. When I start to feel scared, uncomfortable, or simply not confident enough, I retreat to my comfort zone, waving my shirt around my head and singing softly to myself: “This is bullshit. This is just bullshit.”
While not at writing, this is currently happening to me in my martial arts training, I feel awkward, stiff, like I’m not good at it at all, and every cell of my body wants me to give up.
Most people give up.
Why submit yourself to the struggle when there are more fun things to do on the internet? You can always lie to yourself and say you don’t have the time, or that you just are not meant for it. Why bother? You’ll never be as prolific as Stephen King, or as creative as Tolkien, right? You’re just some average person.
Remember, perfect is the enemy of good. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time, it doesn’t even have to be any good the first time. What matters is that you start.
Think of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, T. S. Eliot. Every writer who ever wrote something worth reading started in the exact same spot. There’s no secret, there’s no muse, there’s no magic potion. The only way to get to the other side of the discomfort is to push right through the middle.
Is that how you start writing?
Eventually, I’ll update this article with different strategies you can use to actually start writing, all based on your availability and willingness to write, and discuss why you should even care about writing at all. But getting to this point was my compromise to deal with my fucking first time writing after a long time, pushing through the vulnerability of writing content for my own website.
Do you know what’s funny? I actually have no problem doing this every day for other people’s websites. It’s how we say in Spanish: casa de herrero, cuchillo de palo.
For now, all I can tell you about how to start writing is it’s the exact same thing I tell myself every day: