If your computer screen seems to be sticking its tongue out at you as you freeze up, turn it off and take a break. It’s the best way to fight Blank Computer Screen Syndrome, aka Writer’s Paralysis.
First, think hard about your message and condense it into a couple of sentences. Next, post the message on your screen and get going. It’s okay if it sounds clunky.
You’re no longer stuck facing a blank screen because you’re into storytelling and you can start to grapple with how to intrigue your reader. Play with options to see what works.
Maybe you want to set a scene and then tell the reader what it means – like the way To Kill a Mockingbird describes Macomb, Alabama, in the 1930s long before we meet Tom Robinson. Or maybe you want to introduce your central character by showing him or her in action. You can fill in the biography later.
The important thing is to fill your screen with a potential opening that leads you into your story. You’ll know it’s right when the rest of the story starts to flow from your introduction.
Sometimes you draw a blank because you can’t think of anything to say. More often, you freeze up because you have so many things to say that it’s hard to sort through them to create an opening that gets you swiftly into your story.
Again, leave your screen and clear your mind with a walk around the block or some coffee. Sort through the ideas that run through your relaxed mind.
Could some smaller themes support a main message later in your piece? Maybe some ideas are just too complicated to explain when your story needs to move fast. Let the story reveal itself to you, go back to your screen and let your copy flow.
Taking breaks to think actually saves time because you relax your mind and start to solve problems almost effortlessly.
If you’ve got a story worth telling, be patient and test many ways of conveying your message. Eventually, it will come out and you will marvel at the results.
In this column, Dr. Eileen Wirth shares everything she has learned about being a creative professional. Got a question or topic on creativity you would like Dr. Wirth to address for The Greenhouse Journal? Shoot her an email at EILEENWIRTH@creighton.edu.
Dr. Eileen Wirth is a professor emeritus of journalism at Creighton University and is an author specializing in Omaha history. She was a reporter at the World-Herald and a PR Writer for Union Pacific before joining Creighton in 1991. Eileen’s books include The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, Historic Omaha Houses of Worship and From Society Page to Front Page. She is on the board of History Nebraska and a member of the Nebraska Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Women’s Journalism Hall of Fame, and the Omaha Press Club Hall of Fame. She also has been active in numerous groups particularly the Omaha Public Library.