As I write this blog post I am thinking today about how hard it is to face a Blank Page. Whether I’m writing a new blog post, a new chapter, a new scene, or even starting the year with a blank planner, somehow, that blank page is so difficult to look at.
Starting is hard. Starting is one of the hardest things you can do, no matter if you are starting a new habit, a new project, or even a new email message. There is almost nothing worse than starting a new blog series, a new product, a new scene.
Why? Well, there are more reasons than you might think.
Change is difficult, if not outright scary. Will you be in a tight spot next month if you put $100 away for savings and then have to use that savings right away? You may not know the answer to that.
You don’t yet have the knowledge or tools you need to do the job correctly, or maybe you don’t even know what you don’t know. You go to the gym because you’ve put on some weight and you see tons of equipment. You want to learn the forms, learn how to use the equipment properly because you don’t want to get hurt. But the gym is busy and no one seems to be willing to let you stand there and read the signage.
You don’t want to fail or to look silly. You convince yourself that it isn’t going to work even before you try. I know I’ve done this loads of times, and it has held me back.
Life gets in the way. You’re doing good, keeping to your low carb diet. Then, BAM. Life. Somebody you haven’t seen in a while invites you out for dinner at a place that doesn’t have low carb options. Is it even that bad that you cheated on your diet once? No, but the next week at the office birthday party for your boss, you take a cupcake. Your coworkers are practically shoving it down your throat. And the week after that, it’s just one donut. Then suddenly, you’re back into a high carb lifestyle.
Somehow, the only thing worse that starting is starting again after you’ve given something up. If you’ve already tried to start something and failed at it or given it up in the past, starting a second time is often more difficult than sticking it out. Your ego gets in the way, you beat yourself up, and even though you’re trying again, you can still fail. You will probably encounter the same obstacles you had in the first place, and you may again not be willing or able to overcome them.
The list goes on, but I think you can see that these are all super valid feelings and concerns.
As writers, we face the blank page every time we try something new. A new outline. A new manuscript. A new chapter. A new page. A new stage of the writing process. There’s so much information out there, and there’s not even any right or wrong way to do anything. That makes it so hard to learn a new skill because you have to try everything.
So what do we do? Here are three ideas for making the blank page less intimidating.
Type some nonsensical words or write the alphabet in pencil.
You’re rolling your eyes. I can tell.
Here’s the thing though. Sometimes, the blank page is terrifying because it’s blank. A new journal just seems so full of possibility that taking it from it’s pristine, unmarred condition to being fully utilized may never happen, if you just never write in it to begin with.
Type up your title page when you’re starting a new manuscript.
This works really well for a blank canvas or notebook too. Write your name on the first page. Doodle something on your canvas or in your sketchbook, even lightly in pencil. Write the alphabet or sign your name at the top. You can erase it later.
Amazingly, by doing this, your page is no longer blank. And somehow, that’s less terrifying than it was before.
Outline the scene.
Sometimes having a blank page means you are overwhelmed with possibility. Whether you do or you don’t know where your story will go. Whether you will write it as well as your idea and do it justice. Whether you can complete an entire manuscript. Blank pages are super overwhelming.
If you’re having a good writing session but need to quit, scribble some notes on the next page about where the next scene is going to go so that it isn’t empty when you come back to it tomorrow.
Failing that, think about your scene in detail. Outline just that scene. What beats do you need to hit? What emotions are the characters going through? What is the best way for your characters to move from the previous scene to the next plot point?
Use whatever document you’re typing on and just type directly into it the outline for the scene. Voila. Your page is no longer blank.
Freewrite about why you’re stuck.
If I’m well and truly stuck, one thing I find helpful is to just freewrite on why that is. I find doing this manually (pen and paper) helps me to slow down my thoughts and focus on thinking things through. I will often pair this journaling method with a coloring book so I have downtime for my brain to actually focus and think.
This can also help if you are writing while stressed or in between busy moments in a day. Instead of freewriting, do a brain dump of everything in your head. This allows a clear, focused mental plate when you sit down to face that blank page.
How do you face the blank page? What is one thing that will always get you writing, even if you’re stuck? Let’s share tips in the comments below!