Here’s a tip I got from Natalie Goldberg about what to do when you stare at the blank screen or paper and can’t think of anything to write. Write for five minutes, or two pages, or whatever metric appeals to you, and start every sentence with “I want to write about …” and let your hand fill in the rest. She recommends you do this exercise in longhand, so that’s what I do.
Trust me, your mind hates sentences with subjects and no predicates. It will fill something in, and then you too will know.
Here’s what I wrote the last time this happened to me:
I want to write about big meaningful stuff that shouts “Wisdom! Wisdom! Get Your Red Hot Wisdom Here!” I want to write about how we’re all swamped by our own loneliness and how joy and fear co-exist, living together in a too-small overstuffed apartment in my head. I want to write about how life calls for courage, we have no choice but to be courageous or die. I want to write about my cat using the couch as a scratching post even though she knows she’s not supposed to, is that courage to be herself in spite of my orders, or rebellion in the face of my orders, or simply because scratching one’s claws feels good and at this moment nothing else matters?
I want to write about how sometimes I wake up with a song playing in my head, and how I wish I knew what this meant, or if it means anything at all. I want to write about the morning I woke up with Holy Holy Holy in my head, complete with crashing organ chords and an entire church choir – a song I haven’t heard for decades but somehow all the words were still there, holyholyholy lord god almighty early in the morning my song will rise to thee, and which lurked in the back of my mind the rest of the day. I want to write about how the very next morning I woke up hearing Zip a Dee Doo Dah sung by chirping Disney-esque bluebirds – what about that? I want to write about the juxtaposition of Holy Holy Holy with Zip a Dee Doo Dah and what that says about my mental state – or maybe I don’t because I’m not sure I want to know.
And after this outpouring, it is much easier to sit down and write something sensible. Believe me, this trick works.
Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 30 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit http://www.primary-sources.com/.