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How To Get Past The Blank Page By Creating Urgency

Posted By Darren Rowse 26th of October 2009 Writing Content 0 Comments

In this post Roman from How this Website Makes Money shares some suggestions on how to create urgency to get past bloggers block.

Sunday morning.  You have everything ready.  Hot coffee on your right side, a crisp bagel on your left, computer on and ready.
You have the whole day to write.  All week the post has been forming in your head and now all you have to do is write it down.  Word processor opens, fingers posed over keyboard.  Go.
A few minutes pass and nothing happens.  The page remains blank.  The post that was so clear in your head becomes fuzzy.  What is the point of it again?  How was it going to start?
Ten minutes have passed and the word processor is gone – you are now doing your online banking.  Then you check the news, read an email from grandmother, and finally you scan your favourite blog for tips on how to write good posts.
Half the day gone and you have not started to write. 
The blank page is a major stumbling block for most writers.  Including me.    And the worst part is I know that if I just start writing and fill the page with words then my writing will begin roll.  It is just a matter of getting past the blank page and writing the first few paragraphs.
Over the last couple years I have come up with some techniques to get past the blank page.  The techniques work on the principle of creating urgency.  Not an illusionary sense of urgency – real urgency.  I create a situation in which I need to get words on the page or else something bad happens.
Here are a few suggests that you can use to create urgency and force yourself past the blank page.  

Hold It In Just A Little Bit Longer

The worst thing that can happen when you are writing and on a roll is to be interrupted by bodily needs.  Your rhythm and train of thought can be lost by the ritual – walk, do, flush, wash, sit.  To avoid this you usually go to the bathroom before you start writing.  But if you want to conquer the blank page  this is a mistake.
To create urgency drink two large glasses of water.  Wait a half hour or until you feel a slight tinge in the bladder.  Sit down at your computer and promise yourself that you will not go to the bathroom until you have written at least one page. 
At first you will stare at the blank page, but as soon as the tinge turns into a pinch you will start writing.  And as more time passes you will write faster and faster.  This method creates a direct relationship between time and urgency – the more time that passes the greater the urgency. 
With this method you won’t be doing your best writing, but that is not the point.  The point is to get past the blank page.  A bloated bladder will force you to write.  After you return relieved you can peacefully recheck your work and continue writing.

The Evil Eye At The Mom and Pops Coffee Shop

It has been said that J.K Rowling wrote parts of Harry Potter at Starbucks.  Not hard to believe – at Starbucks you see lots of people with their laptops.  Starbucks provides a nice cozy place to write away from the distractions of home.  The atmosphere is pleasant and the employees think nothing if you spend half a day there sipping a Short no sugar, no cream, coffee of the day.
But that is also the problem with Starbucks – no urgency. Nobody cares if you sit there all afternoon staring at a blank screen.
You need to go to a small mom and pops coffee shop, preferably while the owner is working behind the counter.  Order a coffee and sit down at one of the three tables in the shop.  Open your laptop and promise yourself to write one page before you leave.
Bringing out your laptop you will receive your first sour look from the owner.  The owner does not like you.  For her the faster a customer drinks their coffee and leaves the better – people who occupy a table for hours sipping a single coffee are bad for business. 
After half an hour you will begin to feel the evil eye – this is good.  Hopefully all the other tables are occupied and people are forced to hover around with no place to site.  At this point the owner will detest you.  At any time she might come to your table and ask you to leave – a confrontation you desperately want to avoid.
In this situation is it impossible to obliviously sit motionless in front of your laptop.  This is urgency creation at its finest.  You will be writing like mad to get the hell out of there.

First Thing In The Morning

When somebody says they will do something ‘the first thing in morning’ they are lying.  Morning begins when you open your eyes.  The first thing you do is get out of bed, go to the bathroom, have a shower, coffee and get dressed.  It is after all these things are done that you begin to do the ‘first thing in the morning’ tasks.
If you want to get past the blank page then do not lie about ‘first thing in the morning’.  Do your writing  first thing in the morning.  Open your eyes and go directly to the computer.  Regardless if you are in the nude or sporting a nightcap, go directly to the computer.
You are not in your best form – your brain is still sleeping.  But with little crust chunks in your eyes and the taste of plaque on your teeth you will be typing away so that you can do all the second thing in the morning stuff.

Smoking Can Cause Writing

If you have an addiction you are in luck.  Addictions make it easy to create urgency.  Smoking is a great example.
Lets say you are sitting at home watching TV.  The urge comes – you want a cigarette.  You could simply light one up and fill your blood with nicotine, but why throw away this great writing opportunity.  Instead of lighting the cigarette, sit down at the computer and place the cigarette in front of you.  Promise yourself that you will not light it until you have written a page.
People who are otherwise rational and respectable will stand in the freezing cold behind a dumpster for a cigarette.  Addictions are powerful, you need to harness that power to get past the blank page.  Your body will be begging you to light that cigarette.  Tell your body – yes you can have it as soon as I finish writing a page.  Every cell in your body will be helping you write that page.  Like an old teletype machine,  words will start to appear on the screen.
Don’t smoke?  No problem, I am sure you have some other addiction.  Use its power to create the urgency you need to fight the blank page.

Create Your Own Urgency

These are just some techniques you can use to create urgency.  Besides situations you can create yourself there are also those that come unexpectedly.  You need to learn to spot them and take advantage.
A good example is the method I used to start writing this post.  A few weeks ago I woke up with the flu, sore throat, fever, and runny nose – I felt like crap.  All I wanted was to have hot tea and lay wrapped up in my bed covers  mumbling incoherently.
Although I was far from being mentally healthy, I did not miss this rare opportunity to create urgency and triumph over a blank page.  I wrapped a blanket around myself and sat down at the computer.  “I promise to write at least one page before I lay down, put a bag of ice on my head, and drink my tea.”

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. wow, inspiring article you have :-)

    it is both wise and understandable

  2. Being a new bie in blogging, i face this situation many a times. BUT when i first read that it sounded funny and i thought if this would really work.

    Yesterday i tried holding my “dejection”…..and i was surprised when i fisnished with a killer post….thanks Darren

  3. Hello! I feel like you wrote that post (Urgency) JUST FOR ME! You described exactly what happened to me this past w’end..
    Anyways thanks for sharing an interesting blog..

  4. Those sound like great urgency creating methods. At the moment I don’t have a challenge with having nothing to write but I’ll keep those tips in mind.

  5. I never made it through the first draft, so I programmed a tiny application that plays the nastiest sound I could find (a car alarm) after 5 seconds of no typing. That’s urgency, hahaha!
    Great read.

  6. I think there are some neat tips here, but I don’t know how much I agree with the premise. I think the way you get writing is by reading, looking at things online, bookmarking links, making notes.

    At the very least you should be able to put up a post full of links to various things for your readers. I’ve been doing more of this as the month has progressed.

    But you know what? Sometimes it’s important to not write. If you publish every day this week, people might get tired of that. Writing 4 or 5 times a week might be perfect. And blogging isn’t just about promotion by amassing content – if you have something important to say, you should take your time with that.

  7. Darren really great tips.It is is the common behavior of every blogger.It’s not easy to start but if you start then it’s half of done.
    I mean initiative of any work is half done but in the blogging field you need really done.
    If you write any single sentence then you can create more then 10 sentences from one.

  8. Hysterical post; I love it. I’ve been known to keep writing while needing to hit the restroom; it sure does help you finish a paragraph or page or thought… you just have to be extra careful when you edit later on; you make a ton of typos. :)

    I just try and start writing like a 10 year old just to fill space and eventually I find myself putting good words down; whatever helps.

  9. I can attest to this – I always figure that I’ll have plenty of time to animate/blog on the weekends because I don’t work then, yet somehow in the 3-4 hours I can squeeze in before work each morning I get a lot more done. I realized it’s because with a time limit hanging over my head I have to force myself to stay on task.

    Maybe I’ll see about getting a part time job on the weekends to help me be more productive :)

  10. The thing I do is try to just type. Doesn’t matter if it’s on the topic I’m trying to blog on or not. That’s not important. Once I get juices flowing, my blog post usually does too.

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