Just Start Writing

Staring at a blank screen can be intimidating, overwhelming, and sometimes boil over from simmering frustration to explosive rage.

Whether your ‘blank screen’ is, in fact, the artist’s canvass or the seductive keys of a grand piano, from time to time, we all stare at them with overwhelm. Our usually busy mind is suddenly empty, as bereft of conversation as it is of inspiration. The only thing that lingers is that most menacing of questions.

How do I fill the emptiness?

Paralysed by choice, we become the victims of our own freedom. We could draw anything, but what do people want to see? We could begin to pluck a melody, but how do we caress these notes into something that no one has heard before?

We may not be thinking these thoughts, but we feel them rising from the depths of our being, and underneath it all, powering our insecurities like a hamster on a wheel, lays our biggest worry: will it be good enough?

In these moments, everyone has their own routine; a walk in the sun, a pint with a friend, more coffee, meditation, and yoga, or maybe just staring at the computer screaming cries of “I’m useless” over and over again until you pass out from the exertion. (I don’t do that anymore).

But what if we thought of it a little differently?

We receive hundreds of Quickies every month, and once published, we select a few of our favourites for a project breakdown. We give the creators ten questions to take us through their process, letting us peek inside the journey of their project. Because the subject is so universal, two questions we always ask are: how do you deal with creative doubt? And: When you’re stuck, how do you find inspiration?

When interviewing Steffie Yee for her project, The Lost Sound, recently, we received a wonderful answer to this conundrum.

“I made a rule for myself during the whole creative process: Do it badly.

My theory is that if you’re doing something badly, it’s still better than not doing it at all. I followed through with that rule, and I ended up playing around with the creative process, less concerned with trying to perfect everything. When you have that open mindset, you begin to see the result of that playfulness in the work you’re making, and it ends up motivating you to keep going.”

Quite often, we drown creation in the worst possible outcome. We feel ourselves choking as our fingers get closer to the paintbrush. “What if it’s rubbish?” “What if I waste a whole morning writing an article about creative doubt only for everyone to doubt my creation?” (no hard feelings, by the way).

The thing is, the only real waste in art and life is not trying. So, you write a few pages and come back the next day realise it’s utter rubbish. All you’ve done is close one door and open up a hundred more beside it. To paint the Sistine Chapel, to make the iPhone, or to create Woody and Buzz, one thing is always the same; you must begin; you must start writing.

Imagine the best project you were ever involved in, your Sistine Chapel. Now imagine how many more you might have painted, but you never surrendered enough to make the first mark.

If you can take away the end goal and not worry about the unrealistic expectations of your own inner monster, perhaps you will start to see a blank screen only twice a day: when you’re switching it on and when you’re switching it off.

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About the author

Whether he calls himself an energetic wordsmith or a lyrical mechanic (it depends who he’s talking to), Stuart has an undeniable love of words. He watches every movie with subtitles, googles the lyrics to all his favourite songs, and talks like he can’t believe they gave him a mic. His ability to grab people’s attention, fusing a dark sense of humour with an unconscious optimism, offers a fresh perspective to the editorial voice. As well as writing for Motionographer and The Motion Awards, he has a regular mental health blog, spent over a decade running live events and music nights in London, and is an avid martial arts practitioner. His first non-fiction book will be released at the end of 2021.