Do you fear the blank page? If I were to ask you this question, what would your answer be? My guess is that you would say yes. I can’t imagine anybody not having experienced the blank page. I wouldn’t expect anyone to like sitting in front of one. I definitely don’t care for it. Ask any writer, and they will tell you the same thing that they dread facing the blank page. Unfortunately, it has happened to all of us from every walk of life. It doesn’t matter what you do or who you are. I’m sure at some point in your life, you’ve faced this fear: some, more than others.
Sitting in front of that blank page does a number on your psyche. This is especially hard for those who write for a career, and even worse, one with a looming deadline. The longer you stare at it, the more self-doubt surfaces, and next thing you know—the party begins. The self-bashing comes to the party bearing a good measure of ammunition. It doesn’t matter if they are real or imagined negative thoughts. Next thing you know, your worst critic makes a grand entrance, sucker punching you on your way down. You call yourself a writer! You stink as a writer. You’re never going to amount to anything as a writer! Why bother? You’re wasting your life away waiting for the words to come. You’re better off getting a real job. Of course, there’s always that little guy that nags the heck out of you. When are you ever going to get that done? The page won’t fill itself. You think you’re a writer. Prove it. You’re all talk. And, on and on, the party goes. Have you ever had a party like that? No fun. It doesn’t help the situation at all.
Since I began my writing journey, I haven’t faced a blank page yet. I hope I never will, but there are no guarantees, are there? There is a good reason why this hasn’t happened to me—I don’t let it. That may sound simplistic, but it comes with a price. It costs me the price of a good night’s sleep. Instead of the blank page, I have lost a few nights, okay truth be told, more than a few nights of sleep. If Musette, my muse, hasn’t revealed the topic for tomorrow’s column by the time I’m washing up for bed, then I know that I would have a fretful night. My mind would mull over all the topic possibilities. Once I lock onto a topic, I rack my brain for a title if it hasn’t appeared already. I’m not done yet. Not until I’ve brainstormed for some bullet points to write about, would my mind allow me to sleep. As soon as I accomplish this, then I sleep.
That is how I prevent facing the blank page. In a way, I do face the blank page, but before I show up at the page. There are many techniques out there that can help us avoid the blank page. Mine has worked the best for me. Thus far, my fear of missing my posting deadline trumps my fear of the blank page. I’m disciplining myself to do what it takes to show up at the page and write my column. Finish it. Post it by noon. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to achieve my goals thus far.
My technique may or may not work for others. I honestly dislike the loss of sleep, but I love preparing before I write. For that reason, I am willing to put up with a little less sleep.
For those who prefer not to sacrifice sleep, try some of these techniques that might get your fingers tapping on the keys. Write five words. Everybody can write five words. This technique immediately cancels out the blank page. Next, write another five words. It doesn’t have to make sense. The important thing is to write something. If you keep writing five words at a time, who knows, your stream of consciousness may decide to join your party.
Come up with a title. I almost always come up with a title first. Then, I brainstorm the topic and the content to bring my title to life.
Make a bullet list of ideas. Whatever comes to mind. Jot it down as a bullet point. After you jot down everything that you can. You may begin to see a pattern that you could start on your writing.
Use a writing prompt. These are fun games you set a timer to and write about the prompt as fast as possible for so many minutes. Who knows? Maybe you would be surprised by the outcome, and that bit of writing might end up becoming a more significant piece.
Write a letter, email, or text to yourself, stating what you are trying to accomplish. You may end up brainstorming with yourself, and voila, you have the means to begin writing.
The last technique that I’m going to put here I got from the movie, Finding Forrester, where Forrester loan Jamal the first paragraph of his published work to help Jamal battle his blank page. I would caution that if you use a published first paragraph for this technique, once you get your writing going, make sure you replace that first paragraph with your words. Nobody wants a case of plagiarism.
Even though I haven’t exactly sat in front of a blank page on the screen, I know that I’ve experienced that daunting blank page when I lose sleep fretting over what to write. That’s why this topic has been weighing heavily on my mind lately. I don’t like facing a blank page. I’m not fond of losing sleep, either, but I dislike missing deadlines most of all. I’ve challenged myself to write five columns and a blog each week. That’s quite a challenge, meaning I don’t have time to worry about the blank page, but it’s prevalent. I am determined to overtake the blank page and keep up my writing momentum. I wish the same for all of you, who share the plight of the blank page.