Small Steps to Big Ideas – 3 Tips to Start Writing

I’m sponsoring an upcoming event for a Portland Blogger’s event. So I’m designing a simple postcard to hand out in promotion of my services.


I’m  excited to sponsor this great event and for the opportunity to work with some creative bloggers.  But I have one tiny problem.

I want to design this postcard about as much as I want to scrub a toilet.

At first I had no idea where to start.  I had no clue what it should look like.  My mind was completely blank.  With no idea where to start, I was afraid to take the first step.  I only knew that it should be a postcard with some colors.  That’s it.

Then a couple days ago, I thought, “Okay, it’s not that hard.  It can be anything.  I just have to do it.”  So I did it.

I started with a dummy template in Microsoft Publisher.  I played around with colors and got some ideas, small ideas about the theme and type of font.  I chose an inspirational quote over a picture.  I deleted text boxes and moved others around.

After a few hours of steady work, I had a sample.  With each decision I had a better idea of what I wanted.  And I had created something.

All I had to go was get started.

Like any creative process, this is sometimes the hardest step in writing.  You know you need to write a new blog post or a few pages of your book.  But how do you get started?

In this scenario, I worked under the pressure of an encroaching deadline.  I do not recommend this for anything, least of all writing.  Writing is a sacred process.  You need that time to walk away and come back with fresh eyes.

But there are a few things I took away from this experience.

1. Start small.  When I opened the Publisher template, I immediately knew what I did not want.  I didn’t want to use the default black and red color scheme (ugh).  I wanted different colors, so I worked with that.  I wasn’t keen on the font, so I played with those.  Soon after that, I considered the overall design.

I started with one detail, and inspiration for other details followed.  That is all it took.  Scale down your thought of the overall work.  Consider one simple detail.  It can be a word, a color, an image, or an emotion.  Start writing about that for however long you need to until it leads you to the next detail.

2. Use a template.  Structure can be a good thing.  When I write blog posts, I more or less work with a template.  If I have a clear idea of my topic, then I don’t lean on it as much.  But when my capacity for the English language completely escapes me, then this template helps me get grounded.

Your template can be as simple a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Write a sentence for each section.  Write two more and so on.

3. Map out your idea.  Working on my novel, I sometimes can’t envision what should come next: what my character should do, where she should go, and who is with her in the scene.  So I do a simple exercise of listing her every action, A plus B plus C and so on.  I allow myself to create different scenarios.  This way, I feel like I have options on which course of action the story should take.

You can start with one statement.  For example with this blog post I said, “Getting started is hard.”  I built everything else around that.  I told my story about getting started.  Then I thought about how I problem-solved it.

All you need is one piece, one idea, one detail.  Build something, anything.  Don’t worry about whether it’s good.  That’s editing.  Save that for later.  Just get started.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Such a simple yet profound message! Getting started IS often the hardest part.

  2. Dave says:

    Last paragraph is excellent. Great summary of what we need to do with our writing.

  3. The beauty about writing is that it can always be changed. (I don’t know about you, but when I start a project like your postcard, the creative aspect always carries me away!)

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