The tyranny of the blank page
My mind was even more blank than the computer screen I was staring at.
I was on a tight deadline to write my organization’s big holiday mail appeal, and I had nothing.
Zip. Nada. Zero.
The clock was ticking, and everyone was counting on me.
I’m sure you’ve been there too – you need to start writing a big proposal, a direct mail letter, or your case statement. Time is tight, expectations are high, and you’re…totally stuck.
Writers call this the tyranny of the blank page.
But you’re an awesome fundraiser, and it’s just an blank screen! You got this.
Here’s a few ways to get started when you feel like you just can’t.
Step away from the computer
If you’re truly stuck, it can be counter-productive to sit there, sweating in front of an empty screen.
Get the heck out of your office, and get some fresh air. Go for a stroll around the block, or sit in a nearby park. Resist the temptation to pull out your phone – you goal here is to give your brain a break.
Thinking hard about a problem can get you stuck in a creative rut. When you engage in an activity where your mind can wander, the control freak that’s your prefrontal cortex can relax a little, giving your mind some space to come up with more creative solutions.
So that’s why we get some of our best ideas when we’re in the shower (and heck, if a walk around the block doesn’t work, you can always go soap up!).
Just 10 minutes
This is one of my favourite procrastination busting tricks.
I make a deal with myself – you just have to do this thing you are resisting for ten minutes, and then you can stop.
After 10 minutes of writing (even badly!), my page isn’t blank any more, I’ve built up some momentum, and I’ve gotten over what can be one of the hardest hurdles – getting started.
Give it a try! After all, it’s just 10 minutes…
Do some Deep Work
I’ve recently finished Cal Newport’s excellent book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, and it’s changed the way I structure my day.
Among other things, Cal recommends minimizing distractions, and organizing hard, intellectual work (like writing) into longer, uninterrupted stretches that you schedule into your work day.
You may not have as much control over your schedule and managing interruptions as Cal does, but I would guess that you can carve out at least an hour at a time to focus on your writing, or whatever challenging task you need to tackle.
So, turn off your phone, stash it out of reach so you aren’t tempted, block out all those distractions on the internet (I’m a Cold Turkey addict – give it a try if you are prone to straying onto Twitter et al), and get started!
Do you have any tried and true tricks you use to break free from the tyranny of the blank page? Share them in the comments below.
And if you need me – I'll be taking my prefrontal cortex out for a walk.
Hey, if you’re still stuck staring at that blank page, maybe I can help! Check out some of the ways I can help you tap into your potential for fundraising.