You are faced with a blank page. Now what? The great idea for an epic novel suddenly seems dull. The pages beyond appear out of reach. The carpet suddenly requires immediate vacuuming. The phone rings and you leap to answer it. Menial errands begin to gain importance over anything you could possibly put on paper. What it boils down to is that it is easier not to write.

Just now, in the middle of writing this article, thinking about distractions, I got up and made a grilled-cheese sandwich. A perfect example of what I’m talking about today. However, I truly enjoy writing and get cranky when I don’t do it, so I sat back down and kept going. Once you start, writing is addictive and it gets easier. The key is to let go of your discouragement and your egotistical opinion about what you are writing and simply get something down on the page.

This next part is very important.

Writing and editing are two very different activities that, in my experience, should never be combined on the first draft in creative writing. Business and technical writing, sure. Even with articles, columns and blog posts they work together. When you are planning a work of fiction, scheming the plot, falling in love with your characters and visualizing locations and actions, let ‘er rip. Get down everything in your head as it comes until you reach the end. You may switch names, plotlines and locations, even story themes along the way. Don’t allow those changes to stop your momentum. You could be 50 pages in to find that your characters have taken on lives of their own that have little to do with how you started. Go with it. Don’t worry about the beginning that no longer fits, just keep writing.

Once you let your internal editor take part in the creative process, look out. There is danger and heartbreak dead ahead. I have three unfinished books in a box in a closet that attest to the practice of editing while writing. Sure, there are several very nicely polished chapters in each, but the stories died while I was fixing things and they never reached their conclusion. It was devastating – so much so that it took six years for me to begin again. Mind you, I spent five of those years as a singer/songwriter, so it wasn’t wasted creative time, but I was definitely blocked in the book-writing arena.

Finally, I took the plunge during National Novel Writing Month in 2007 ( and wrote a 55,000-word novel in 30 days. There was no time to edit and I finished my first draft. It was an incredibly rewarding experience to write those words, “The End”. I tried getting back to it a couple of times, but ended up writing and self-publishing a non-fiction book, ‘101 Reasons to be Yourself’ instead. Now, over a year later, I’ve taken out the novel again, dusted it off (figuratively – it’s on my computer) and got down to the nuts and bolts of editing and proofreading, ditching the first five pages and many others along the way. I was amazed to find that it is better than I thought when I wrote it.

You probably don’t need a whole year to gain a fresh perspective, but give yourself a break. First, be the creative writer and get the story down. Second, put it away for a while and celebrate the accomplishment. Third, catch up on all the stuff you neglected while you were writing, like cleaning, eating and exercising and do something fun. Fourth, start your editing.

It all comes back to this: Just. Start. Writing.

This is a good time to mention Julia Cameron’s, “The Artist’s Way”, once again. She knows what she’s talking about when it comes to unblocking.

Happy writing!

Author's Bio: 

Heather Loewen is the author of "101 Reasons to be Yourself" - a book full of tips and encouragement for positive change and creative living.