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Writing Badly

Ah, the blank page. The nemesis of the writer. The intimidating wall of white.

There are a dozen topics rolling around in my head, and I’m having a problem picking one to work on today. And still, the page sits here, mocking me. Accusing me. I’m blocked and the damned blank page knows it.

So what does a writer do when faced with this implacable foe?

He writes.

A friend of mine once complimented me on my writing. She asked how I do it, so I told her.

I learned to write badly.

Now, that got a laugh, but it’s true. The secret to conquering the blank page is to get something down on it. You can’t win a chess game without moving the first piece. You can’t win a fight if you don’t throw a punch. You can’t write a book without typing in that first line.

The trick is,  don’t worry about whether it’s a good one or not. Just get it down on paper (or, in this case, pixel).

Writing a hundred thousand word novel is a marathon and you can’t finish if you don’t start. What hangs us up is the inevitable indecision that paralyzes us. I have an idea of how the story’s going to go, who’s going to be doing what, but I just can’t get started. The reason is I want to write something good. Scratch that, I want to write something perfect.

Here’s the thing, though. I can’t. How often do you do anything perfect on the first try? The mindset you have to have is one of writing something that isn’t perfect, knowing you will fix it later. That’s what I’m doing right now. I’m just spewing thoughts into a text buffer, and they’re coming out all jumbled and I’m sure they’re not in the right order and this sentence is running on way to long and damned if I could tell you where it will end.

But notice something. My fingers are typing. The page is no longer blank.

And that, my friends, is the trick. Now, I’ve got something I can work with. I can go back and work on making it good.

Whether you’re writing a resume or a novel, that’s how you do it.

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