The blank page. Whenever you start a new writing project, it’s unavoidable that you’re going to come up against that blank, white expanse. Whether you’re opening a new document in your word processing software, or turning to a new page in your notebook, that page is blank and just waiting for your words. The only ingredient missing in the mix is your imagination and your ideas, and that can sometimes be intimidating. Though we know, deep down, that we should be exhilarated by the blank page, I think most of us end up feeling crippled when faced with it.
On the Terrible Minds blog, Chuck Wendig puts a pretty good voice to this blank page feeling. In his post, The Varied Emotional Stages of Writing a Book, Chuck writes, “It’s too big. Too white. I feel like I’m just gonna shit up this pretty snowscape with my trompy stompy dirty boots. It’s like a mountain before an avalanche. It’s like the white light of death. It’s the sheer infinity of potential. The unrefined expanse of utter possibility. And anything I do feels like ruining it.”
Now, does that sound terrifying? Of course it does! But I think Chuck does a good job of explaining just why we might be afraid of the blank page — the worry that we’re going to ruin it. Obviously this doesn’t mean that we are literally afraid of sullying the blank page itself. Rather, we’re afraid of making a misstep in our writing project. We’re afraid that whatever we put down will not be good enough. This is an understandable fear, but you have to remember that whatever you’re writing is only a first draft. There will be improvements and edits made down the line, so it’s okay if what you write on first blush is not perfect.
The blank page can even rear its head when you’re in the middle of a project. Say you finish writing for the day and when you return the next day you find that the first has left your belly. Suddenly your words seem alien to you and you have no idea how to continue your story. One of the ways I try to combat this version of Blank Page Syndrome is to write the first line of the next scene before I stop writing for the day. That way, you at least have a starting point when you return to your project.
Do you experience Blank Page Syndrome? If so, what do you do to combat it? Share your tips with us in the comments and let’s continue the discussion about the terrifying blank page.
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan