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.

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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.

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