I’ve been struggling with writing lately. Torn between providing value for you and staying true to my intentions for this space—to tell the stories of creative women and provide practical resources for you to embrace your creativity. In this attempt to not throw junk out into the blogosphere—to not publish anything that’s neither valuable nor beautiful—I’ve become paralyzed. And the only way to not become a better writer is to not write.
Not knowing where to start is a common creativity killer. The options feel endless so we just do nothing. Do you want to write? Do you feel like there are thoughts, feelings, experiences inside you that just need to be written down? Do you process the world through words? Writing is a therapeutic and rewarding way to navigate life’s unexpected turns. But what happens when you don’t know where to start? I’ve got a few simple steps to get you unstuck so you can start writing.
1. Uncover your purpose.
One of the most valuable things you can do when assessing your writing and weighing it in the balance of everything else in your life, is to uncover why you want to write. Does it feed your soul? Does it help you make sense of life? Do you write to serve others or to exercise your creative muscles? Do you write as a form of worship, a way to serve God with the talents he’s given you? You don’t need to limit yourself to one reason, but discovering your primary purposes will guide the way you write, what you write, and how you make time for it in your everyday life.
2. Explore the genres.
Once you’ve uncovered your purpose, it’s time to explore the different genres of writing. Your purposes will help guide this, but it’s also helpful to just play with a few genres to see what you like. If you write as a form of worship, maybe you start with some in-depth journaling. If you want to write your experiences, you can begin with personal essays or memoirs. If you want to weave plots, take a shot at fiction writing. My favourite genre is creative nonfiction because it offers space for examining characters, uncovering events, and telling your own story.
3. Find a good definition.
You’ve settled on a genre (or two), now find some good definitions. What does writing in that genre look like? What kinds of stories and techniques does it use? Discover the different formats and platforms for writing in your chosen genre to build a blueprint for your writing life.
4. Get reading.
The best way to absorb yourself in writing for any genre is to get reading. Explore how other writers develop plots, describe characters, and craft sentences. Soak your creative brain in the words of others to spark words of your own. But don’t stop there.
5. Start writing.
While you’re reading your way through each genre, you also need to just start writing. The only real way to become a better writer (or a writer at all) is to keep writing. Find a way to incorporate writing into your daily routine—even if it’s just a few minutes—and stick to it. I can’t tell you how many times I sit down in front of my computer to write when I don’t want to. If I only wrote when inspiration struck or the nebulous muse decided to pay me a visit, I’d hardly ever write anything. Sometimes when I put words to paper (or usually virtual paper) they don’t turn out the way I want. That’s ok. Every bad sentence or boring paragraph I write is an opportunity to learn. A chance to write better sentences and more interesting paragraphs.
In the end, the answer to the question of where to start writing is simple. Just get writing. Find some words and put them down. Then find a few more and string them together. Keep doing that until you have something that resembles a story. Then start all over again.
Interested in exploring the creative nonfiction genre? Check out our new free course The Creative Nonfiction Primer!