Instructions, Opinion, Regulars, Uncategorized

You’ll never write a thing by staring at a blank sheet of paper

‘Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.’

Benjamin Franklin

The process of creative writing is very much like that of moving your bowels. There’s a degree to which you can sit there and force it, but if it doesn’t want to come it won’t. Plus, you have to appreciate that mostly what you will produce will be crap.

My very first blog, just over a month ago, was a statement of intent. I set out to keep up with my writing, mostly as an exercise to keep me in practice for when I eventually get around to writing something more involved – like a novel – so the subjects of my blogs were a secondary concern. I can proudly say that, after five weeks, I’ve exceeded my expectations. I’ve blogged seventeen times about all manner of subjects, and not short, insignificant entries, but material with clout. But I fear I’ve burned myself out a little, and hit a patch of what is known as writer’s block.

It happens to the best of writers, but I’m not including myself amongst them plus I pay little attention to their advice on how to get yourself in the right frame of mind to write. As amateur and part time writers, we face slightly different challenges to someone sat staring at the blank sheet of paper in their typewriter all day, with no pressures other than a publisher’s deadline to worry about. We may face roadblocks in the shape of lack of confidence in our efforts, a void of inspiration, or simply just finding the time to sit down and bash keys.

For inspiration for a subject for this article, I looked back to that very first blog. My intention was that my articles should never amount to a diary, not should they be journalistic reporting. They should lie in between, and that would be my first point: although it’s important any facts used are correct, your opinion is as valid as anybody else’s. So, in one sense, nothing you write is wrong. Don’t worry about people disagreeing or else not being interested in what you have to say. That’s what opinions are for and this is the internet, so someone somewhere will be interested.

As far as confidence goes, you have to remember you’re not writing for The Times, and as long as you can string a sentence together in something approximating English you’re good enough for blog writing. At The Camel’s Hump, we affect an air of professionalism, but don’t let that put prospective writers off. We also have an editor, and she’s there to advise and suggest, not criticise. A good editor can help you improve your writing no end. The best advice I can give if you don’t have an editor is to find a friend willing to read your work and give honest feedback before publishing.

On the subject of inspiration, I would suggest it is everywhere if you learn to look for it the right way. You have to stick your aerials out to catch the signals. There’s material all around, even in the daily Facebook grumbles we all make – why are children on buses so annoying, and why do old people have to smell? But I don’t think you can chase inspiration down, like a bailiff looking for debtors – finding where it lives, coming round and kicking its door down. Once you have the scent of an idea, if it’s a good idea, decide what you think about the subject, research what others think about it, and start when you have more of an inkling what you’re going to write about. You’ll never write a thing by staring at a blank sheet of paper, and the sheet will stay blank if your mind is blank.

In regards to finding the time, it’s all very well to say “Tuesday at 8pm I’ll sit at my desk and write for sixty minutes” because an hour after you’ve started you’ll probably still be staring at your screen and checking your social networks every five minutes. You may be inspired to write at any time of the day, and you have to be prepared to jot down your ideas and thoughts. I write most of my first drafts on the Word application on my smartphone, then neaten them up on my laptop later. For those of you not yet a part of the touchscreen revolution, notebooks and biros have been the writers friend for many years. Keep them with you and use them, even have them next to your bed as you sleep.

Since The Camel’s Hump began, we’ve been continuing to look for contributing writers. So far, enthusiasm has far outweighed product. That isn’t a criticism, as all contributors give up their time and talents for free, but I hope this post can inspire some of those who haven’t got around to it yet, and perhaps raise interest in being one of our writers from others. So in conclusion I’ll say this: If it was easy, anyone could do it. I’m not saying it is easy, but no one should be afraid of trying.

About stuartjamesbox

I'm a 30-something graphic designer, employed by a large newspaper and magazine publisher, but a writer at heart - only one who struggles to find the time or motivation to sit at the keyboard and bash keys in a pleasing order. I'm a progressive, liberal, atheist. I think everyone is entitled to their opinion, but some people are just plain wrong. I love books, films and music, and if you only like one kind of anything you don't like them at all and seriously need to broaden your horizons. I can cook, bake, and play guitar to various degrees. I have an unhealthy obsession with fonts; vintage clothing, especially tweed; cats of any variety, except pointy, skinny ones and ones with flat faces. Follow me on Twitter @ Stuartjamesbox


5 thoughts on “You’ll never write a thing by staring at a blank sheet of paper

  1. Very true. Better to write crap than to sit at the computer and stare at the screen, writing nothing at all.

    Posted by Maggie | January 5, 2012, 5:21 pm
  2. Such a true article Stuart! Writers really do have the art of prevarication down to a T. Or is it just me?!

    I’d be very happy to contribute a piece if you think my style would fit in with the Camel overall. I love the variety and different thinking the bloggers here have, it’s good to see an airing of opinions without infighting!

    Posted by applepiewithwensleydale | January 5, 2012, 5:26 pm
  3. I so agree with what you have said here. Inspiration is everywhere, if you can just see it! I never set a ‘time’ to write as like you say I can guarantee that then I will be staring at a blank screen so I read (a lot) anything from blogs to books, newspapers to labels and signs and Facebook updates, you can be pretty certain that at least one idea will pop into your head for something you can write inspired by something you have read (or seen)

    I would be happy to contribute to Camel’s Hump if you guys feel I have something worthy to contribute based on the multitude of subjects covered in my blog 🙂


    Posted by showard76 | January 6, 2012, 12:37 pm

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