Beating the blank page

Writing can be difficult. In fact, the most difficult thing about writing can be knowing how or where to start. If you’ve ever lost confidence after launching into a comms brief and being stuck with a blank page, try a warm-up exercise many of the best brand writers use. It’s called automatic writing.  

We ran a series of workshops recently with a new client.

We’ve created and facilitated many workshops over the last decade, and have developed many different exercises as a result. 

But this brand asked for a totally original, bespoke session – tailored to the exact challenges their different writers and comms people face on a daily basis. We said of course. It’s the sort of brief we love. We’d create the workshop from scratch – except for one element, the warm-up. Because we had something in mind perfect for our client’s learning objective around building self-belief.

Have you ever tried ‘automatic writing’? All you need to do is write for a set amount of time – with pen and paper; but without a brief, with no word count, and free from all constraints. 

The trick is to write without analysing the words you leave in the wake of your pen. To start, it’s trickier than it sounds as your Inner Critic, that voice of judgement in your head, tells you what you’re writing is stupid, bad or wrong. But once you learn to write through that voice, the exercise can be transformative. Some of the best, most successful writers in brand use this exercise.

So, next time you’re faced with a writing brief and don’t know how or where to start, try some automatic writing.

  • Find a pen and piece of paper/notepad
  • Ideally, sit away from other people in a quiet place
  • Now write. Just write. Whatever comes into your head, whatever you think, or whatever you might have just seen or heard, just write. Try not to take your pen off the paper, except to turn the page. Go wherever your words take you.
  • Once your time is up (5-10 minutes is ideal), sit and reflect on the exercise. How was it? Where did your writing go? How are you feeling now about that upcoming comms brief? 

Here’s what some of the people in our workshops said:

'Writing usually worries me and then I shut down. Writing this way, without thinking too hard – I felt so liberated!'

'There’s something about handwriting that made me feel that childlike joy of creativity. I felt nervous to start, but when the nerves passed I felt so creative.'

'The connections! I really wasn’t expecting my writing to go so far in five minutes. I covered so many subjects, with so many words.'

'All I needed was a pen, a piece of paper and to start. I’ll never be scared of a blank page again.'

'Five minutes and now I feel I can take on any writing challenge!'

For plenty more tips on improving your writing craft and confidence, get yourself a copy of the A-Z of better brand language. We’re told it’s the definitive guide to improving the way you work with words.