Starting Trouble

I’ve got to give it to Charles Dickens; his first lines always ran a mile, and I can’t even manage the first word of my first lines. 😦

I wonder sometimes on the lousy days when I write like a lousy person, if I’m the only one in this planet full of pens and paper and creative minds, who suffers from starting trouble. It’s not just when I’m sitting before my desk with a completely blank paper and a completely  blank head. Starting trouble always makes me shy away from what could be great experiences, great conversations, great relationships, simply because I can’t start them.
I had this kind of a lousy day when I tried to write something of my trip to the USA. An hour later I was still stuck on the first sentence, and I decided that I needed a refresher course, and that I’d put it up here so that I could remind myself every now and then that “Okay, this is what you have to do in case this ever happens again.”

About a month ago there was a meeting where the daughter of a friend of my mom, a copywriter, shared writing tips with a bunch of kids including yours truly. A lot of her tips helped me greatly, and I combined a few of them along with mine to get this:20140801_141848

Which, I realize, isn’t really clear, but I’m no professional photographer! 😛 (That, and of course, the superb advantages of using the phone camera.) So here I go! *Uses fake optimistic-advertiser’s voice*

1.  Flowcharts are your friends. Yes indeed they are! Flowcharts are an effective way to erase that empty feeling that comes with staring at a blank paper for too long. All you have to do is write the main theme of discussion right at the centre of the page in a cloud (or circle or any other shape for that matter), then the key words of the sub-points in smaller clouds (or circles or any other shape for that matter) surrounding the central cloud/circle/shape. You can refer back to this flowchart later when you forget something, too. And it doesn’t matter if you decide to delete one of the points later, either. Thank you daughter-of-my-mother’s-friend! (Yes, I know her name. No, you don’t need to know.)

2. Don’t begin at the beginning. If it’s an introductory paragraph that gets you down (as is in my case) then don’t get stuck there. Move on to the parts of the article that you have already figured out and write those first. You can come up with a proper intro later, then write it all in order in a new copy.

3. Keeping it simple. I’ve figured that this works best when I’m writing an intro. So you have your key-words in those neat little shape thingys. Now all you have to do is fill in the blanks! Introductions, I’ve seen, are most effective in their purpose of getting the reader’s attention when they are kept short and sweet, but with a punch in them. Shooting your readers with simple words is far better than boring them with an incredible but sloppy vocabulary. The words can always be kept for later.

4. Maintaining momentum. It’s better to write while you’re still brimming with ideas than to keep it for later, especially if you have starting trouble. You’ll find it easier to put your thoughts on paper then. But obviously it’s difficult to pen down everything in a day, which is why you have to maintain a schedule and follow it. Lately it’s been difficult for me to keep mine though, but I’ll definitely pick up once I’m back home. 🙂

5. Take your time. This despite maintaining a schedule. However I mean differently over here. I’ve never written ten sentences continuously without pausing and thinking, and I’m pretty sure that no one else, rookie or professional, will either. Sometimes the right word or phrase doesn’t come to you, you stall, and it gets frustrating. Take a break. It’s absolutely necessary that you get some space to think it out slowly. In my case, I am afraid I’d lose track of where I left off while taking a break, so I just doodle and scribble on the same sheet I’m writing. Taking time really helps.

6. Research Research Research! Every story has its base in fact. (Where did I see this line before? Can’t remember. Comments please!!!)  Good stories usually come from people who have had real experiences of them, or those who are well read and informed. So do all the research possible, be an amateur doctor or historian if it’s necessary for your story, or it would be a kind of insult to the reader if you get your facts wrong.

I guess that’s it. These tips help me a lot, and I hope they help you too! 😀

P.S- This is what I did for my Trip-to-the-USA article…. 😛