Many people may find a blank page stimulating and open to possibilities, but I find it intimidating. Having the freedom of an empty canvas is not liberating to me, rather it is often paralyzing. As a result, I utilize many strategies to ensure that my page is not blank for long. Once I get something on the page, the subsequent words tend to flow.
To avoid finding your mind and fingers idle as you stare at your computer screen or piece of paper, begin by using another document as a template. I utilize old proposals as a starting point to write a new one, and even if the topics are unrelated, there is always a heading or formatting that I can carry forward to begin. I open old agendas or minutes and modify them rather than typing anew. Before publishing, I write the dots in Word and always paste tomorrow’s dot number and date on the next page so I have initial content instead of nothingness. When I write a grant, I’ll create the document with just the questions and work from there to fill in the answers.
Another strategy is to cut and paste material that you can repurpose rather than creating it from scratch. If you presented on a topic, use that session description or handout to start a newsletter article on the same subject. Repurpose descriptions from your annual report into a portion of your grant application. Modify your job descriptions to become your ad – then your onboarding document – then your evaluation form.
If you have a major writing project ahead, start now to make notes – and collect the Post-its or slips of paper in a folder – that you can assemble and type up when it’s time to begin your work. You’ll be working from a skeleton of an outline from the start instead of wondering what that first point is.
The first word is the hardest one to write. Set yourself up for success by having the beginning already on the page.