Every writer confronts the dreaded fear of a blank page.
It is white, stark, and for many writers and authors, it’s downright intimidating.
You stare at a fresh blank sheet of paper or an empty word processor template in Google Docs. Perhaps Word with its infuriating little flashing cursor.
There is nothing in front of your eyes except white emptiness, and you feel stuck.
The white void
The fresh white page is the void into which the brave writer must always dive without fear or hesitation.
It is writing time, so just do it and don’t fear the result.
The only proven way to eliminate an empty white page is to overcome its fearsome superpowers. Add one letter, then one word, and then one sentence.
When you take these three simple actions, you will have defeated the monster of white nothingness.
What writers say about the blank page
When you are in doubt about what to say or how to prove your point, quoting famous people usually helps.
You can fix anything but a blank page. – Nora Roberts
You can’t edit a blank page. – Nora Roberts
You must not come lightly to the blank page. – Stephen King
You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. – Jack London
I enjoy the freedom of the blank page. – Irvine Welsh
I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper. – Steve Martin
In movies, storytelling and every single art form, we’re creating wonder. You’re starting with a blank page and creating something that doesn’t exist. – David Copperfield
There’s something about a blank page that makes me tingle. -Nikki Grimes
You might also like to read this article in The New Yorker about a study by Jerome Singer and Michael Barrios into writer’s block.
The fear of a blank page is not writer’s block
You can only suffer from writer’s block if you are in the creative writing process, and you are then suddenly unable to continue doing so.
If you haven’t written a single word, you don’t need to overcome writer’s block because you haven’t started a process that can be blocked.
Perhaps I could have written that last sentence much better. But at least I got it written, and it can now fulfill its prime purpose of exorcising a small area of white blankness from my screen.
Of all the writing strategies for a writer suffering the white page, all it takes to win the battle is to write words.
How to be a courageous writer
It doesn’t matter what your writing projects or creative processes are.
Books, articles, essays, short stories, and blog posts all start the same way – by writing one word and then adding a few more words to make one sentence.
But if you hate writing that first word, here are a few ways you can avoid it.
1. Never start writing on a fresh page
You can do this so easily. Whenever you have an idea or even half of an idea, quickly tap it out into the writing program you use.
If you have made a note on your phone or in any note-taking app, just copy and paste it. Then save it as a new document. You might do this ten or twenty times a week.
Then, whenever you want to start writing but feel creatively blocked, select one of your saved documents. And presto, you don’t have to start writing from scratch.
2. Pick a word, any word
Before you open your new page, think of one word. It, there, that, who, when, or yesterday. It doesn’t matter what word you choose.
Now open your writing program and type in your first word, and start freewriting.
Whatever word you write to start it will lead you to a second, third, and fourth word.
3. Walk away
Never sit staring at an empty screen or white page. If you do that, the page wins, and you lose.
Walk away from it and make a coffee, read, or go for a walk. Refuse to look at it again until you can come up with a sentence in your head.
It doesn’t need to rank as the best sentence you have ever written. You only need to think of one short, simple sentence to overcome your creative problems.
Say it out loud and then go back and instantly defeat the dreaded beast with a few slashing keystrokes.
4. You will delete it or edit it anyway, so why worry?
Rarely will the first few sentences of any piece of writing make it through to the final draft.
Very often, you will write your best opening lines at a much later stage.
There’s no need to fret or worry about them for the time being. Just let these opening sentences do their temporary job of occupying what would otherwise be white space.
5. Try a new writing program
It’s possibly a habit you have when you want to write to open a new document in Microsoft Word.
You know it so well, and it will do nothing to help you find a new idea.
But trying a new writing program can help you because you have to think, and figure out how to use it.
Just the fact of your brain working on something new can often help clear your head. Then your new ideas might come.
You don’t need to be a courageous writer to overcome the fear of a blank page and conquer a white page dragon.
But you should never try to stare it down. It will always win that game.
All you need to do is overcome any trepidation you might have.
The best way to defeat any fear you might have is with words – they are your weapon of choice.
Try using one of the tips I have noted above to help you.
Don’t feel intimidated when you sit down to write.
Be a fearless writer and be confident in knowing that you and your writing voice can win the battle of the white page every single time.