When those first few words simply refuse to come. When you sit in front of the blank screen puzzled. Give your inner critic the task of describing what you want to write about (he or she is probably good at that), then turn the job of distilling the essence of your article over to your dragon.
Begin with a short paragraph telling yourself what your article is about. Four or five sentences should be enough. Now drill down to a single descriptive word (not a phrase) that embodies the theme of your piece. It’s OK to pick out a few words, but settle on the best of the lot.
Get a clean sheet of paper, write your word in the center, circle it and cluster. Let go and don’t censor, simply relax and turn your dragon loose. Write down whatever pops into your head; synonyms, examples you might never have thought of otherwise, and so on. You’ll discover new ideas, ideas that you can use to reinforce your main point and give your article real cohesion.
Keep going until you feel the urge to write. Don’t worry, you’ll know when. Let the words flow, again without censoring and write a short vignette. When you finish, read it over and you’ll probably surprise yourself with the first draft of a solid opening paragraph.
It’s so much easier to write a good piece when you understand what you want to write about before you begin. By distilling your idea down to a single word, by finding connections and examples to illustrate your main idea, you’ll have laid the foundation for a solid opening paragraph and a single focus that will bring your article to life.