I have a book in mind to start writing. For three years now. I read advice that tells me “just start writing.” And still I don’t start.  I send e-mail, update social media, check off tasks, do my tried-and-true work.

Truthfully, I’m paralyzed about how to begin this new work.  I feel I need to know exactly where this book is going before I can even start. It’s an unfamiliar format for me, away from kids’ picture books. I need chapters and more than 500 words! I simply am not trusting myself to believe what I’ve seen before: That once I get going, my mind will connect to the process and the story will evolve.


Egg Timer by Tanakawho

Because the “just start writing” advice isn’t working for me, I’ve had to come up with some other techniques to power through my paralysis.  See if one of these might help you get started on a new work.

1.  Make a Mind Map of your Idea.

mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information. A mind map is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank landscape page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words and parts of words are added.  This un-sticks me as this process doesn't need a beginning.  Rather, I can doodle possibilities around a central theme, for example, chapter ideas, people to interview, etc.  

2. Make some Top Ten Lists.  Or Top Five.

Ask yourself, “What are the top 10 things I want my reader to learn?  To feel?  To know?”  What five things would I want a reviewer to say about my book?  Perhaps this very exercise will help you back into your reason for writing that may seem elusive.

3.  Use an Egg Timer

Legendary copywriter Eugene Schwartz created a system of working that, before he was finished, enabled him to write nine books, dozens and dozens of successful ads, and countless articles for well-known publications all over the world.  How did he do it?  He set a small kitchen timer to 33.33 minutes and pressed the start button.  His rules?  Yes, he could drink coffee but no he could not leave the chair.  So either he got very bored or he got busy writing. 

4.  Record Yourself Thinking Aloud

I can tell you what I want to write about IF I could get myself to write!  That prompted me to use the recorder on my IPhone to capture myself rambling about my ideas for what to include in an introduction, the chapters, etc.. I hit ‘play' and transcribed my dialogue to paper.  The relaxing process of typing what I was listening to jumpstarted me to actually fill in content inspired by my stream of thought.

How do you get started writing when you're feeling paralyzed?


Right now, set your egg timer for 14.5 minutes and write! Or go through the exercise of telling us five things you want your reader to feel after he or she reads your next great work.  As always, encourage your fellow word artists!

I'm Marianne Richmond—writer, artist and inspirationalist. My words have touched millions over the past two decades through my children's books and gift products.
Basically I put love into words and help you connect with the people + moments that matter. You can find me on my website, Facebook, and Twitter (@M_Richmond21).

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