5 Essentials for Getting Started with Writing

Daily writing is the cornerstone tool that I use in my creative life and my personal life. It’s my #1 recommendation to clients and friends. It’s my best friend and my surest connection to the highest wisdom (and the loudest whines!)

The blank page is my confidante, my workshop, my solace and my laboratory as I use writing to understand myself and my place in the Universe.

In this first of a three-part series on the wonders of daily writing, I give you the 5 essentials for getting started, something that each of my workshop participants has been asked to bring to every workshop:

A fast pen, a blank notebook, an open heart and a sense of adventure. Just add a timer and 5 minutes, and you’re good to go.

Hope you enjoy it!

Hi everybody, it’s Phyllis here with the Five Essentials for Getting Started with Writing.

When I talk to people about writing, people seem to have some common misconceptions. The first one is that it’s a mysterious, sacred sort of process that people are granted because they have some special gifts. And part of the purpose of this video is to show you that that’s only true for people who develop a writing habit. Everybody has to be a beginner sometime, and this is for you, the beginner.

The biggest obstacles that people talk about are lack of time and not knowing what to write about. I’m going to help you overcome both of those obstacles in five easy steps.

The first thing you need is a timer and five minutes. There are lots of theories out there about writing three pages in the morning – that’s what I do – but I didn’t start that way. I started small and doable. I find that a timer is the absolute magic wand for getting your mind off of the timing and how much time you have and what you’re taking away from something else. The timer is like the guardian at the boundary of this beautiful, sacred space that you’ve given yourself. You’ve given yourself permission that you’re going to take five minutes. You can accomplish a lot in five minutes, and you can accomplish a lot more when all you’re doing is that one thing. So let the timer be your guardian. Get a timer, and set it for five minutes.

I start all my writing classes with a five minute writing exercise and the only instruction is, don’t stop writing. Just keep writing. I give a prompt, which is an incomplete thought, usually one word or two words, that gets you started. In the notes, there is a link to a list of some of my favorite writing prompts. And as you develop your writing habit, then you can start to adopt some of your own favorite writing prompts. I use these over and over again. They’re very open ended and non-directive. The whole point is to simply gain access to what is inside.

So that’s the first thing, a timer and five minutes. And of course you can your smart phone, a kitchen timer, but use a physical timer. Don’t just keep your eye on the clock. Set a timer for five minutes, and five minutes is all you need.

The second thing you need is a fast pen. [“Where’s my fast pen?”] This is a not fast pen. It has a lot of drag on the page. It has other wonderful qualities that I love, but if you are going to write and keep up with what’s going on in your head, you need a fast pen. You need something that doesn’t drag on the page, something that feels really good in your hand. If you have trouble holding onto a pen, get a larger pen or get a rubber grippy to hold around the pen. I gave myself tendonitis one year by taking notes in 3-hour long classes with a pencil! Pencils have a lot of drag on the page, a lot of friction. There’s wonderful things about that, just like with a Flair pen. But what I want you to do is find a pen that glides so that there’s no barrier between what’s coming out of your head, down your arm and onto the page. Find that pen. It’s an exercise all of it’s own, just to find your favorite pen. Some people like gel pens, some people like fountain pens. Find your favorite pen. It’s such a good thing to do for you. And if you’re serious about developing a  developing into a writer and starting to write, start with a great pen. Start with something you really love. You want to want to pick it up.

And while we’re on the topic, number three is a notebook. There are no rules for the notebook except that you’ve got to want to go to it. You’ve have to want to pick it up. It has to be exciting to you. It has to be welcoming. It has to make you go, “Ooh, Ooh, I want to write in that!” So when you shopping for a notebook – and I definitely recommend that you do not go to the notebooks on your shelf that already have little scribbles in them or take someone else’s and make do, don’t use individual little scraps of paper – buy yourself a spiral bound notebook, something where all the pages are together, you won’t lose them, and if you absolutely have to, you can tear out a page and throw it away, but something that – Look in the kid’s section, look in the section where they have Disney characters or My little Pony, or Wonder Woman, or whatever it is, little stars and planets, whatever floats your boat – and get a notebook that you absolutely love.

I’m looking over here, because I have a whole bookcase full of spiral bound notebooks. I love them so much. And I’ve not ever gotten tired of them in all these years. I buy different colors, shapes and sizes. Buy a notebook that you really love. And here’s the thing. Your pen and your notebook are your special, magic tools ( and your timer), and when you open the notebook, it’s like entering into a safe place, a place just for you to write in. So make them inviting, make them happy things for you. Don’t settle for leftovers. Buy yourself a new pen and a new notebook.

The next ingredient, the next step in getting started writing, is an open heart. And this isn’t something that you can buy. But it’s something that you already have. It doesn’t mean that you always have to feel good. That’s not the point. You want to write whatever’s going on in there, whether it’s tight and crampy, or upset, or excited, or confused, whether you just hit a giant fog bank in there, whatever. The open heart is about allowing yourself, giving yourself permission, to write whatever is true for you. When I write I have only rule and the rule is, “Anything goes.” That’s the rule. It’s the one place where I’m allowed to tell it like it is. I don’t have to be polite, I don’t have to be politically correct, I don’t to be diplomatic. I don’t have to hold back on the things that I would normally not say to my loved ones. I say them in the notebook. So, if you’re going along writing, and you’re in your five minute oasis, and your pen is whipping along, and in your heart is something you need to say, and it’s like OMG, just write it down! The point of having a notebook is you can close it. You don’t have to read it. You can put it away, you can hide it. You can come back to it the next day. Just come back to it. You don’t have to reread what you wrote. The open heart is about allowing yourself.

And this is a good time to mention the Inner Critic. Because it’s going to come up. It’s inevitable. You’re going to hit that voice that says, “What the heck are you doing? You can’t write. You don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You have no right to write. Who are you to think that you want to be a writer?” And the best thing to do is not to avoid it, not to pretend  it’s not happening, but to write it down. Just write it down. And right after you write it down, keep going. Just keep going. You’re going to not finish your sentences, you’re going to just give permission to write whatever’s there. And if what’s there is a bunch of self-deprecating stuff, just write it down. And then if you want to, refute it! Talk back to it. Tell it, “Thank you very much, but go away. Go help somebody else who really needs your help.” Or something. We can talk about inner critic stuff. It’s bound to come up when you open your heart and let yourself write.

Number five is a sense of adventure, because what’s also going to happen is, stuff is going to come up that you’re, like, “This isn’t me. I don’t know who’s speaking here. I don’t know where this idea came from. You’re going to blurt things out. I call them blurts. You’re going to just plop something down on the page: “I hate asparagus. I should get a new job. What the heck am I doing in this town. ” Whatever it is. And, boom, you’re in an adventure. You’re on a new adventure. And your opening up something in yourself. Even if it’s just for five minutes. You’re saying, you know what? Whatever it is that’s in there, that’s coming down, I’m going to just download it onto the page. And I don’t know where it’s going to take me! But I guarantee you, you’re going to be in a different place after five minutes than you were when you started.

But that doesn’t really matter. This is about getting started. So what I want you do: I want you to find a timer, I want you to find a pen and a notebook, and I want you to look at your calendar for tomorrow or today if it’s early in the day, and I want you to decide what five minutes you’re going to take. And I want you to turn your phone off and get unplugged, off line, get off of Facebook, close down the computer – Oh, I don’t want you to write on the computer, not for this. Because this is a physical process. This is yoga for writers. I just made that up!

So here’s what I want you to do: I want you to plan it for yourself. Go to my page of writing prompts and write some of them down, or print it out, and get ready. Set the timer, start writing the prompt and then keep going for five minutes without stopping. Don’t worry about making sense, complete sentences, grammar, punctuation, spelling, propriety. Don’t worry about staying in the lines. There’s only one thing you have to do, and that’s keep your hand moving for five minutes. That’s it.

And then– I’m a one day at a time kind of person – but try it again the next day. And the next day. You could even make a commitment to do five minutes a day for seven days. One week. And see where you are at the end of that seven days. And see if you feel that you have begun writing.

Let me know how it goes for you. You can comment below, on Youtube, or on the blog, send me an email, find me on Facebook, fill out a contact form. If you run into a glitch or something I didn’t think of, point it out to me, and we can take it from there.

Five Essentials for getting started writing: Five minutes and a timer, a fast pen, a blank notebook, an open heart and a sense of adventure.

Have fun!

If you want to get a jump start on #2 in the series, just navigate over to the sidebar, where it says How To Develop a Daily Writing Practice. Click on the picture, give your name and email, and you’ll be directed to the download.)

Or just use this link.

All of my videos can be found on my Youtube channel.

Thanks for stopping by. If you know of someone who might like this, please share. Also, come over to Facebook and say hi!

With gratitude,


by Phyllis Capanna © 2016 joyreport

All content is the sole property of Phyllis Capanna. If you are reading this content on another site, it has been reposted without the author’s permission and is in violation of the DMCA.  © 2016 Phyllis Capanna

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *