Fear of a White Sheet of Paper
How to write the first paragraph without a nervous breakdown
Let’s be honest. Writing can be challenging. Especially, when you have to write a 1000-word article from scratch under a tight deadline. You sit in front of the empty Word document with no words coming out off your head, and the midnight panic begins. If I may comfort you, in times like this, you are not alone. As it turns out, the phenomenon you experience has been studied long ago, labelled as “fear of a white sheet of paper.”
So what can you do to overcome the first signs of apprehension and start the writing process?
Step 1: Start with the “White Paper” Brainstorming Technique.
Instead of wasting hours to generate a catchy opening phrase, spend some quality time brainstorming about your topic. The special technique to combat the fear of a white paper is as follows: time yourself for good 10–15 minutes and write down any associations you may think of, when looking at your theme. The terms may include, but are not limited to, nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, quotes, phenomena, or even anecdotes related.
Do not create unnecessary constraints in the format — scratch down everything your creative part of the brain generates. Most importantly, under no circumstances, stop writing. Even, when it seems that you are out of ideas or the power of the white sheet is prevailing, keep writing down random words and filling up the paper.
To help you understand the technique better, we’ll do a practice round together on How to eat a healthier diet today.
Brainstorming: vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, processed sugar, fiber, cakes, no overeating, scheduling, prep meals, homecooking, count calories, vegetables, snacking, fruit, red meat, fish, don’t fry, stew, bake, less oil, chips, etc.
Step 2: Use “Umbrella Terms.”
Now, when your Word document is no longer empty, it’s time to do some brainstorming revision. The key to productive brainstorming lays in the effective usage of “umbrella terms,” and if you don’t know what that means, I will school you a little. Umbrella terms are used to cover a broad topic, combining several single items related to one category. An example of the umbrella term may be “fruit” for apples, oranges, and peaches.
Now when you’re familiar with the concept, look at your list and combine the generated associations, using “umbrella terms”. Ideally, you’ll have 3–6 different categories, depending on the scope of your writing. Don’t be scared if some of your words don’t fit under any of the “umbrella terms”. Delete them and focus only on the developed clusters.
Back to our practice round, here’s what I came up with as my umbrella terms.
- Eating habits: no overeating, scheduling, prep meals, homecooking, count calories, don’t fry, stew, bake, snacking
- Necessary nutrients: vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber
- Healthy food products: vegetables, fruit, fish, chicken, rice, quinoa, oatmeal, nuts etc.
- Unhealthy food products: cakes, processed sugar, red meat, chips
Step 3: Develop Argument for Each “Umbrella Term.”
In the final step of the process, look at each of your categories separately and think what is that you’re trying to argue with these phrases. Note that these are not supposed to be your fully-developed topic sentences, rather guidelines for your future paragraphs. In other words, instead of worrying about the structure and clarity of your arguments, use the generated umbrella terms to understand what the overall focus of your article will be.
When you come up with the short phrases outlining your claim, take a step forward and expand them with the words brainstormed earlier. Such practice will give you a sustainable basis for writing a well-developed paragraph.
Finalizing our practice round, here is a short version of the arguments for How to eat a healthier diet today.
- Change your eating habits: avoid overeating, snacking, and frying in large quantities of oil; start scheduling and preparing your meals beforehand, cook at home, keep an eye on your calories, stew, and bake, instead of frying.
- Make sure your newly designed diet includes all the necessary nutrients: aim at eating 40% of carbs, and 30% of proteins, and fats a day; include fiber for better digestion, consume vitamins A, Bs, C, D, and others with various food products.
- Balance your diet, exchanging unhealthy food products with much healthier alternatives: when craving for cakes and other processed sugar, eat fresh fruit; compensate for fats in chips and other snacks with nuts and quinoa; instead of red meat, give preference to chicken and fish.
By following these 3 easy steps, you will be fully equipped to write a well-developed paragraph. With words neatly organized in umbrella terms, and later, arguments, the fear of white sheet of paper can no longer stop you from producing the best content in a short period of time.
Hi! My name is Maryna, and I am an aspired content writer. My philosophy behind writing is simple: you need to believe in what you write and write what you believe in. Let’s connect at LinkedIn and share meaningful stories together.