Picture Book writer is residence Rashmi Sirdeshpande

May 2022

Blank page.

Biscuits.

Cup of something nice.

So many good intentions…

For some writers, this is an exciting moment. For some, it’s terrifying. Me – I love the blank page at the idea stage. Even the planning stage. But when it comes to actual writing, the FEAR kicks in. Because the thing that is so perfect in my heart will get muddied and muddled the second it moves to my brain and will be a complete mess by the time it hits the page. And hey, if I don’t write it, I can’t fail. Right? 

WELL. 

That’s what has held me back from writing the book of my dreams for four years now. But not anymore. Now I’m all about the Doing and the Finishing and you can’t do those things if you never START. This is my new practice: 

1. Just START.

2. Be cool with rubbish writing.

3. Keep being cool with it until you FINISH.

Embrace the rubbishness. It’s got to be bad before it gets good. It’s the law. It takes guts to get those cringey first words down and resist the urge to immediately take an axe to them.  Especially when you’re a picture book writer and every word has to earn its place on the page etc etc. But no one needs to see this draft. It’s meant to be raw. Shocking, even. This is the writer throwing down the clay. We can shape it later on. Right now, with the blank page, it’s all about beginning.

There are other tricks too. For writers who are happy to plan, a bit of prep time can provide the scaffolding to write into. Less daunting than pure nothingness. Some writers set a time to show up and write every day, however rubbish the writing may feel. I don’t believe in being prescriptive but it can work for some people at certain times – I get hungry and sleepy at set times and I can drop into the writing zone more smoothly at a set time too, if life allows it. There’s also the opposite to showing up every day – walking away. Taking a break is massively underrated and can work wonders when it comes to filling the creative well. 

Some writers do short 25-minute sprints (Pomodoros!). Some free-write around the theme. Some use writing prompts. I know one writer who always begins with ‘Once upon a time’. It means there’s something on the page. One technique I find endlessly fascinating is to pretend you are someone else. How would [INSERT AMAZING WRITER] do it? I used this once to smash out a piece of non-fiction and it really did work. When you can’t have faith in yourself, you might be able to channel an idol’s awesomeness. I mean, it’s all worth a TRY, right? 

Look at me throwing out ideas. You might have some more too and if so, I’d love to hear them. But I think they’re often different ways into the same thing – to just START (even if it’s after a much-needed break) and to keep going until you write THE END. 

Want to learn more from Rashmi?

Rashmi is 2022 Picture Book Writer-in-Residence for the Hub, WriteMentor’s community learning platform that connects like-minded storytellers and provides all the tools they need for writing success.

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