The blinking cursor and white screen have been taunting me for nearly 20 minutes now, and I really should finish getting ready to go into work, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let them win this war of wills. I’m a writer. I’ll think of something to write about, even if it’s the struggle of coming up with something to write about.
I have long admired newspaper columnists, and now other bloggers, for conjuring up material week after week, sometimes multiple times a week, always on schedule. I admire not only their discipline, which has never been one of my strong suits, but also the consistent quality of their writing, and their ability to keep unearthing new things to write about or putting new spins on old topics, every week, every month, for years. Truly amazing.
Meanwhile, I’m just pleased as punch that I have made myself sit down at the keyboard and hammer out some words nearly every morning since the start of this year.
I guess even the greatest columnists and bloggers started somewhere—maybe even exactly where I am right now.
It’s not that I feel at all limited when it comes for things to write about. Every moment of every day presents an array of encounters, events, emotions and observations to dissect and explore. From interactions with family, friends and colleagues to keeping up with news, sports and weather, from fleeting wishes for life to be different to deep gratitude for things exactly as they are, life provides a constant stream of experiences from which writers can drink, whether in tiny sips or with huge gulps.
No, we are certainly furnished with enough raw material. It’s up to each of us to turn that into something that will entertain, educate, enlighten, provoke. inspire—whatever it is we want our readers to do or feel when they come across something we’ve written.
My guess is that the most stalwart of columnists and bloggers do what I’ll need to do if I want to keep this current blog of mine going more than a few months: they remain constantly alert, in the present moment, as much as possible; they envision potential stories in every snippet of conversation they overhear, scene they witness, movie or program they watch, and book, story or article they read.
And they capture them for later use and development. In a notebook. In a Word doc. On a recording device. They don’t let what they’ve seen, read or heard get away.
That’s actually the key to winning the battle with the blinking cursor, the blank screen—creating a treasure trove of ideas, thoughts, observations and topics from which to draw when nothing comes immediately to mind, and continually adding to it. This stash can prevent deadlines from being missed, blogs from stagnating and writers from abandoning their craft for months at a time. It can provide the inspiration we need when we think our writing wells have gone dry, the kick in the butt we need when we’re feeling less than motivated.
We also must to refer to this vault of ideas between stints at the keyboard. Refresh our memories with what we’ve stored there. Mull over them. Let them percolate so that, when it comes time to sit down to write, the words seemingly just pour onto the page, fully brewed.
If you have an ideas folder, why not go there right now and open it up? Or start one right this very moment? That’s what I plan to do later today—I know I have ideas tucked away someplace. Time to take a fresh look at them, so that I pull up a blank screen tomorrow and, just perhaps, not become transfixed by the dreaded blinking cursor.