The first blog post is sort of a strange beast. I’m writing this before I’ve even made my site “live,” and I have no idea who will read it. When I mentioned this to my good friend Megan, who runs a popular crochet blog called Left in Knots (definitely check it out!), she said knowingly, “ah yes, blank page syndrome.”
Her response suggested to me that I’m not the only blogger to experience this feeling of, “uhhhh where do I start?” In fact, it was our conversation that inspired the subject of my first post: how to tackle that dreaded blank page.
As a professor, the blank page is not a new challenge for me; between conference papers, journal articles, chapters, and books, I face that blinking curser all too often. With that being said, writing outside my field (music), to an entirely different audience, in this alternate format, felt a bit foreign. So what did I do? Well, I did what almost all humans do when faced with something new – return to the familiar.
So that, my blank page friends, is step one. Start with what you know and go from there. In my case, I chose the topic of “blank page” because deciding upon what to write, though not always easy, is something I do quite often. I am also using the same writing strategy that I use regularly for work and expanding it for the blog. See? Easy.
Well, if I’m following my usual writing process, the next step is research. When I do this for work, I read books and articles, and reach out to others in the field. Guess what – this applies to the blog world, too! As I mentioned, I turned to Megan to chat about my new idea for the blog, and I asked her questions about her blogging experience. Then I dug deeper into the blog-o-sphere and researched other sites. How do others tackle their first few posts? What are some topics that I found especially helpful? This background research is incredibly important; it not only kickstarts ideas, but it also helps prevent wandering around in the proverbial dark figuring it out on your own.
Okay. You’ve considered what you know, you did some background research, and now you have a potential idea to fill that blank page. For a person frozen at the beginning of a project, that’s huge! Pause and celebrate.
Now this next step may seem strange, but bear with me a second. I’d like you to think about your preferred method for writing. Right now you’re probably staring at the screen thinking, “um, this is a blog post… I write at my computer, duh.” If that’s the case, and you truly do write best sitting in front of your computer, that’s great! I can tell you that approach doesn’t work very well for me; my brain tends to freeze up. In fact, when I’m writing for work I have to physically write everything on a notepad, in pencil. Perhaps the slower pace allows my ideas to come more freely. Who knows. What I do know is that it works for me.
When I write my blog posts, on the other hand, (and when I wrote for my other blog, Paula’s Plate) I do it while walking my dog, Bruno. Seriously. I hook up my headphones, do talk-to-text, and just start talking. I use this approach for a few reasons. Most importantly, it saves time. You will discover as this blog progresses, that I am all about saving time. If I can find a way to efficiently get two things done at once, count me in. Secondly, being outside and moving gets my ideas going… it “just works” for me. So long story short – find what works best for you; don’t be afraid to try something old fashioned (pen and paper) or a bit more unconventional (talk-to-text while walking a dog). It might take a few different attempts to find what you like, but it’s worth it!
What’s the last step? Write. I know this can be intimidating at first, especially if you’re a perfectionist. Just remember, no one will read what you write until you decide to share it. So really, just write. Think about your topic and record whatever comes to mind. You can edit later. This is why I like using talk-to-text when I’m walking Bruno. My ideas flow freely, I can’t go back and re-read or re-examine my ideas (I’d probably walk into a tree). Instead, I just get it all down on “paper.” Once the first draft is done, then I go back, weed out the rambling, and save the good stuff. Remember when your teachers had you “free write” in school? It’s just like that. Give it a try.
So that’s it. Four easy steps and you’re on your way to overcoming the dreaded blank page.
What is your technique for tackling this hurdle? How do you find your inspiration? I would love to hear your ideas; please share them below!