Start with the Big Picture or with the Details
In my work with writers, being frozen at the blank screen seems to be the most common concern. We call it “writer’s block,” but it’s really “thinker’s block” — we can think of what we want to say. The worst is when we have an idea, but can’t think of how to get started.
To conquer writer’s block, start with how you arrange your thoughts.
Do you go from big picture to the details or do you use the details to build your big picture? Pick the one that’s you and then use it to work around to a new idea.
Starting with the Big Picture
Top-down thinkers think in big chunks. We don’t do well just writing to fill a page. Try this to defeat that white screen.
- Start with a plan. Use a mindmap or a graphic organizer. It might be three stacked boxes that you organize like a menu –Appetizer — Entree — Dessert.
- Fill in the main concept — the entree — first. Decide what you want to say. Write your concept in one sentence. Then record the main points you want to include about that concept. Look over what you have, give it some order, but don’t write yet.
- Pick one compelling detail from the above step. Make that detail the appetizer. Decide how you’ll highlight that detail in the introduction. Will you describe the detail or tell a story about it? Use the detail to give readers a reason to read.
- For dessert, think of how you will sum up what you’ve said. Will you circle back to how you started? Will you call readers to action? Will you repeat the main points of the article? The goal for the conclusion is reader satisfaction.
Finish off the blank screen like a three-course meal.
Building from the Detail
Bottom up thinkers build thought by thought. If you’re the kind who finds it easier to write an outline after the article is done, try this instead.
- Relax. Reflect. Think of your concept and choose one detail. Start writing about it. Write for at least 10 minutes. Write longer if you can. Then print out what you’ve written.
- Read over what you’ve got, group together details about the same idea. Describe each group of details with a sentence.
- Choose one compelling detail that you find attention-getting. Write an introduction around that detail to get readers to want to keep reading.
- Weave the most meaningful details of the piece together to make the main content. Then feature one detail — you might repeat the one you used to introduce the piece — by using it to ask a final question or make a final statement that will stay with readers long after they finish reading.
A writer’s goal is a thought that moves readers in some way.
We get there through our own process.
Do you go top-down, bottom-up, or do you have a way in of your own?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
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