I’m talking about writing. How does one begin without an idea?
I hear this question from students all the time and I understand. Although I’ve been writing for forty years, I begin many days without an idea. A bare page is formidable. It taunts. It teases. It can send you running from a keyboard. Here’s how I begin: I commit to writing three pages. No matter what.
Other writers have told me that they write in order to find out what they’re thinking. The process of expressing oneself brings out dormant thoughts. I’ve written several books, and in the early stage, I start each day not knowing exactly what was going to happen when I sat down to write, but by the end of those three pages (sometimes it’s four or five if I’ve had a good day) I’ve found something. You will too.
How does it happen?
It’s like running. You start off slow (perhaps even awkwardly) but as you gain speed, your limbs start working together. The brain seems to do the same thing; it rallies your thoughts. Ideas start to appear; maybe you don’t like the first few, but then something useful comes—something you can work with.
On rare occasions I have a great idea from the start. Most often, however, I write the best version of a half-baked idea, knowing tomorrow will bring improvements.
This is the other thing about the brain. It works overnight. The next day, it provides fresh perspective, new ideas, and I’m off and running.
So, begin. Write anything. Three pages. Just three.