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The Blank White Screen
So, you chose that big writing project because it was a nice challenge? Well done, now you have all the confidence needed to execute it; I’m sure you will do well in it!
What did you say? You have already spent an hour staring at the white screen, and all you have is two lines of text! Well, this wasn’t supposed to happen!
Freelancing writers (as opposed to full-time employed writers) are in a constant fix – whether to accept a big project on a first-time topic (for which you have no prior experience in writing) OR to accept a low-price project on a familiar topic that you can execute perfectly. And sometimes when the desire to take a challenge head on prevails over our better sense of judgment, we choose the former.
But when the deadline starts approaching – you panic! The initial bravado subsidies and all that is left is the realization that your reputation is at stake!
It doesn’t have to be that way – writing with confidence is far easier than you think!
1. Give Yourself (more) Time
There is an age-old saying: “Learning can never go waste!” Perhaps the best thing you can do for yourself is start researching your project early, and not wait for the final week before the deadline. After you have researched thoroughly, you have all the time in your hand to organize all the information as per your desire and just play with it!
Writing starts in the head, a good article is like a fine aged wine; it’s a result of thoughts brewed over time.
And while we are on the subject of giving yourself more time, think of how you can cut down on hours wasted in trivial things like traveling. When I was writing my first book, I never sat down to write until I knew I had enough time to finish one chapter. My home was more than 2 hours away (per side) from my college, I even moved closer to my college (for three months!).
2. Find A Secluded Corner
A peaceful, hilltop farmhouse with lush green lawns – that’s the ideal setting for all writings. But most writers are living busy lives in sprawling cities and writing is either a hobby for them or the second source of income.
It really requires some effort to find your own area where there is pin-drop silence. You need to hit that sweet spot of emotions when you can think absolutely freely, and that happens only when you are free from all distractions.
So google up some libraries/reading rooms in your town. Teachers usually like to work from calm, peaceful rooms. See if a current / former professor can help you find such a place. In the worst case, be ready to alter your schedule a bit – sleep late or wake up early.
3. Choose Your Topics Wisely
One of my friends is in college, and he had his exams which just finished a few days back. He wrote on a topic which was close to my heart, and I took to edit it. He took two days to write 500 words and in the end, he produced an average article which looked more like a compilation of results and facts strung together rather than a piece of writing worth spending your 5 minutes on.
Writing for the web is probably the most challenging type of writing; you need to engage the reader, and yet you need to move fast.
The same applies to my book writing friends. You need to be at least somewhat familiar with the topic and theme you’ve chosen to write on. You are going to invest a lot of time; you will be going through a million emotions in that period! Even if you are writing just a short story less than 4000 words, it is paramount that you like and believe in the topic at hand.
4. (How to) Do Your Research
Many young writers I serve as an Editor for often ask me “How do I develop my own voice?”
Reading what others write is important. Not just your subject matter, but opinions about your subject matter too. Think about it – do you agree with this person? If yes, do you agree on everything? If not, flesh out your reasons for it. Just this little trick is enough to give your confidence a major boost!
“Just this little trick…”
3. Be spontaneous, Be Fun!
Not all text is taken seriously. Most people read for pleasure, and if you bore them with straight-forward facts and logic, your blog/article/book will only fetch you a minuscule portion of the readership.
I talked about being thorough and taking your time for research. But sometimes it’s also important to be spontaneous (I am writing this article on my phone in Evernote after driving for more than an hour in mad Pune traffic!)
If you think you are funny (or have created some popular memes in the past), don’t be afraid to let that natural style flow into your writing.
So, in summary, while it is okay to not be fully confident about the topic at hand, it is NOT okay to be completely unaware of it! If you never had desire or passion (sometime in your past) to learn about a first-time topic, you won’t magically generate that passion from inside of you!
You may even have to change your lifestyle around a bit to find the time and a peaceful place to write. Also, an easy way to develop your own voice (and confidence in your writing) is by thinking if you agree with other writers or not.
And finally – don’t be afraid to let loose once in a while – creativity isn’t born out of machine made processes!
About the author:
Navin Israni is a diehard romantic; he’s also a technical writer and a software trainer by the day who loves to dabble with fiction by night. He believes that passion is the key to a successful career (and also that work-life balance is a myth!).
Technical publications apart, he also loves to experiment with business marketing and public relations content.
Navin can be contacted through his Facebook Page Thought Vent