Blogging for Newfangled is the first time I’ve been required to write since I graduated from college. As an English major, I wrote a lot, and I got pretty good at it. But I’ve been out of practice for two years now, and it’s been tough to get back on the horse.
Blogging is hard, especially when your posts are supposed to demonstrate expertise and thought leadership and all that fancy stuff. It’s intimidating, and frankly most of the time I’d rather do anything other than write a blog post. (If that’s how you feel, too, see Chris Butler’s post, What Blogging Feels Like.)
This blog post was particularly hard to write. I thought I knew what I wanted to write about, but I couldn’t seem to turn the idea into words on a page. I think I pulled up my draft at least once a day for a week and a half. I would stare at the mostly blank page, occasionally write something, and then usually immediately erase whatever I had just written. I had an idea, but no inspiration.
So today I decided to just start writing. I gave myself a challenge: start typing and don’t stop for five minutes. This technique is usually called freewriting. It was a tough five minutes, and at the end I mostly just had a jumble of semi-coherent thoughts, all of which were only tangentially related to what I thought I wanted to write about. But writing was starting to get easier. I kept it up, and slowly things started to come together. The beginning of my document was mostly filled with tentative sentences and thought fragments, but as the type traveled down the page, the thoughts were more cohesive, the sentences were stronger—there were even whole paragraphs.
As I was writing, I remembered what it was like back in college when I would write a paper. It always started the same way. I’d sit down one day and begin compiling a document of notes. Every day I’d keep adding to it, until it was just a mess of quotations and half-finished paragraphs and notes and fragments. And then one day I would make myself take one quotation or note or whatever and turn it into a full-fledged paragraph. It was always hard to start at first, but once I wrote that first real paragraph, it was hard to stop writing.
Sometimes inspiration doesn’t come before writing. Today I decided to start writing, without any real idea of what I would produce. The inspiration came during the process.
Even though I feel like I shouldn’t even put my fingers on the keyboard before I know exactly what I’m going to write about, sometimes I really do have to start writing something—anything—before I really know what I should be writing about.