Heck if I know. My process is an eclectic mixture of Googling, wondering whether I should throw in a load of laundry, and letting the dog out. I think I've come to the place where I accept that this is what it takes for me to really get going. I do have a couple of tools that help me maintain focus in the midst of all that procrastination.
1. Open a Word doc, title it, and save it to the appropriate folder.
The second two actions are vitally important, and I've learned this the (really very) hard way. Nothing is worse than unloading some brilliance onto a blank Word doc and then having your laptop battery die or software sieze up, causing you to lose all that work. Even though my computer gives me recovered documents when I reboot, some changes or additions can be lost forever. (And whenever I do lose something, I'm absolutely convinced that it was my best work EVER. Funny how that happens.)
2. Collect everything to this document.
I transcribe my interviews, paste urls and snippets of research, make outlines, and write various versions of ledes and transitions in this document. By the time it's all said and done it's a mess, but everything is there. And this document will never be seen by anyone else... unless I accidentally send it to the client. Yikes. But to keep that from happening, I title it something like, "Name of Assignment Notes."
3. Open a new Word doc, and start writing gibberish. Hopefully it isn't all jibberish, but it is basically free-writing at this point. It looks something like this:
Later I'll look up the date she opened her business in my notes and decide what to call her customer-base. But at this point, it's just about the getting the words to flow. Usually this freewriting produces both the worst and the best writing I've ever done.
When Mary Arthur first opened her lizard-training business in [date tk],
she had no idea it would be so popular among the [word for people out of
high-school but not yet 30] set.
4. You may have noticed that I didn't title and save this new Word doc. That's because I ALWAYS forget. So do as I say and not as I do: Give it a title like "Name of Assignment Freewrite" and save it.
5. Put it all together in a new titled doc with my byline, print it out, read it out loud, cringe, edit, read it again, cringe less, let it sit, read it again, tweak, and send it out. If I'm on deadline (which is always), I don't have time to let it sit, and when I finally see it in print, I think of a thousand other ways I could have written it better.
A great sentence from an article by Chip Scanlan of Poynter.org helps me out of this writer's remorse, and helps me write faster: "Fight perfectionism by telling yourself that what I wrote today is what I was capable of at this moment."
So there you have my convoluted process for getting started. For this post, I did NONE of the above. I just opened up the little blog-posty box and started typing. That's another very good way to do it.