“I have so many ideas, but I don’t know how to get them out of my brain and onto the page!”
I’ve heard some version of this lament about 35,346 times.
It’s usually accompanied with some hand-wringing, brow-rubbing, or face-palming...occasionally the banging of a head on a hard surface, as if the problem can be physically knocked loose like water stuck in the middle-ear after swimming. (It can’t, by the way.)
In most cases, here’s the general rub: You have a few general ideas you’d love to dive into in writing...but translating them into actual sentences (that flow well, use proper grammar, tell a story, etc.)...that’s hard.
The bad news is there’s no quick fix. I can’t snap my fingers or wiggle my nose and solve this for you. C’est la vie.
However, you can start chipping away at the roadblocks that go along with this issue.
You do that by working through some of the things that can trip you up along the way to getting your butt in a chair and writing the thing you wanna write.
What are those things?
1. Identifying your motivation.
First, ask yourself: Why do you want to write this thing in the first place? What’s going to drive you forward as you sit down to tackle the task?
There are lots of options here: Maybe it’s to teach something you know. Maybe it’s to share an interesting perspective or point of view you have. Maybe it’s to share more of your private, internal thinking with the world (or even just with a small group of friends.)
Maybe it’s just to leave something behind in the world that’s uniquely yours. Remember, no one thinks the exact same way you do, nor can they write in the voice that’s all yours. Writing offers up a chance to own, document, and share this signature piece of your personality.
Bottom line: Whatever your motivation is, define it. Know your WHY and let it guide you ahead as you write.
2. Being okay with sharing writing that isn’t quite perfect.
Lots of people won’t take the time to write (or worse, will write something but never hit publish!) because they’re worried what they’ve written isn’t perfect...and it needs to be before anyone else lays eyes on it.
Perfection is the enemy of done—isn’t that how the saying goes? Something like that.
If I waited until my writing was perfect, I’d probably never send this newsletter or submit a client blog post. However, I set some rules for myself to get over the hurdle. I only allow two rounds of edits before hitting publish for the things I write for myself. For client posts, that number goes up the three (two internal rounds for me, one for them), but on the fourth I charge extra because then we’re just getting nit-picky and in our own way, in my opinion.
You can self-edit until the end of time if you really want to, but there has to be a point in time at which you say, “Okay, I’m finished with this.”
Just remember: Perfection is elusive when it comes to writing. Be confident enough to share your writing before you feel like it’s 100% there. It’s probably close enough.
3. Getting over the “Why bother?” mentality.
If you’re stuck on the idea of “Why even bother writing this?”...you just gotta get over it.
Defining your motivation for writing something in the first place can help you get halfway over this particular hurdle, but the other half is about just doing it.
Writing can be difficult and stressful and uncomfortable, but it’s good practice. It molds the way you think and communicate with others even outside your writing practice. It’s a great mental challenge and, again, is a way for you to leave your fingerprint on the world—even if only a few people end up reading what you’ve written.
Think of all the things we would’ve missed out on if people got stuck on the ‘why bother’ mentality! Incredible inventions, art, films, books—it all started with a display of effort that the creator fully embraced could result in something 100% useless or unfruitful.
Sit down and just *do the work.* Don’t get in your own way by over-thinking things.
Time to Execute
Once you’ve worked through the above items, it’s time to get to work.
Step 1: Set aside a block of time to write.
Put time for writing on your calendar. Literally, schedule it. Make it a regular thing and devote a set time each day or each week where you can focus on writing for at least 20-30 minutes at a time. And yes, you do have 20 minutes you can spare. Be honest with yourself.
Step 2: Outline.
Not sure how to tackle an outline? I shared my practice right here.
If that’s not your thing, try writing an ugly first draft that gives you something to work with rather than a blank page. It’s sort of the same concept, but with less structure. You can also record some basic voice notes about your idea and work from those.
If you sit down and stare at a blank screen, you’re probably going to psych yourself out. Give yourself some bullet points to start with to get the ball rolling.
Step 3: Build, Polish, Publish.
Like lather, rinse, repeat, but with words rather than shampoo. Write the thing, give it a round or two of edits, and then share it. Then do it again.
You’re going to get better the more you practice.
You’ll find your voice along the way.
You’ll get feedback from readers on what they like/don’t like (especially if you’re proactive and ask for people to share their thoughts.)
“Practice makes perfect” isn’t just a cutesy saying. When it comes to writing, it’s the truth. It’s the only thing that’s going to help you become a better, more prolific writer.
So start writing. Share your ideas. The world deserves to hear from you.
This article originally appeared in my newsletter, A Cup of Copy. Sign up and get these free tips sent right to your inbox every other Wednesday.