Getting started with creative writing

Some aspiring writers have no problem in getting the writing process started. Others, even when they know that they want to write, aren’t sure how to begin. Even experienced writers can be spooked by that empty first page.

Here are a few ideas that might help to unlock the words:


Remember the film Shakespeare in Love? Before Will gets to work he sets out his writing materials, spins round in a circle, rubs his hands and spits on the floor. Then he sits down, picks up his pen, and starts writing. Ritual works for some people; perhaps it’s a way of announcing to yourself that this is where your writing gets serious. For example, you might read for twenty minutes, then make a cup of tea, sit down at your desk and open your writing pad or laptop…


Find out the place where you can write most comfortably and effectively. It might be the quietest room in the house, a noisy café, a library, or even the train home.


Many writers keep a journal so that they can jot down ideas as they occur, things they observe, diary entries, words, phrases, and memorable passages of writing. These journal entries provide material to work on later.

Find 20 minutes

Often the problem is not lack of ideas but just finding the time. Try to identify a daily window – even if it’s just twenty minutes – when you know you have a gap between other activities, and write solidly for that period.


Sit down at your favourite place and start writing. Anything. Write the first thing that comes into your head, or you can use a prompt: ‘Morning’, ‘The Worst Day’, ‘Breaking Up’. What you produce may or may not be usable, but many writers find that freewriting gets them started.

Writers’ Groups

If getting started is your problem, why not join up with a group of people who sometimes have the same problem? Writers’ groups often hold workshops and sessions with exercises where you’ll have to write something, and you may end up with material you can use later.


You can try writing exercises on your own, to get yourself into the writing swing. Examples of exercises can be found in writing handbooks or online. They may involve you building a character, creating a setting, or drafting out a storyline, but the great thing about them is that they encourage you create material that you can rework, edit, augment, and build up into something greater.


Literary magazines generally have a deadline date for each issue. There are also increasing numbers of writing competitions (mainly for short stories, flash fiction, and poetry) which also have deadlines - and deadlines are great motivators.

Keep it achievable

Don’t give up on your novel or lengthy work of memoir, but also have a go at writing a short story or essay or poem. These short forms offer achievable targets with shorter horizons for completion - and perhaps greater likelihood of achieving publication.


Back to Creative writing.

You may also be interested in:

Getting ideas for creative writing

Finding a home for your work

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