Every writer confronts the dreaded blank page.
It is white, stark and for many writers and authors, it’s downright intimidating.
Whether it is a fresh blank sheet of paper or an empty word processor template in Google Doc or Word with its infuriating little flashing cursor, it is the same.
You have nothing in front of your eyes except emptiness.
The fresh white page is the void into which the brave writer must always dive without fear or hesitation.
Just do it and fear not the result.
The only proven way to eliminate an empty white page is to overcome its fearsome superpowers by boldly and purposefully adding 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
A blank screen or piece of paper is not writer’s block
You can only suffer from writer’s block if you are in the process of writing and you are then suddenly unable to continue doing so.
If you haven’t written a single word, you can’t be blocked because you haven’t started a process that can be stopped.
Perhaps I could have written that last sentence much better. But at least I got it written, and it can now fulfil its prime purpose of exorcising a small area of white blankness from my screen.
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 are. Books, articles, essays 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 a blank page for writing.
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, select one of your saved documents. Presto. No bare page.
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.
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 blank page. If you do – it wins, 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 formulate a sentence in your head.
It doesn’t need to rank as the best sentence you have ever written. It only needs to be one sentence.
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, the best opening lines of a text are rewritten at a much later stage.
So don’t fret about them now. Just let them do their temporary job of occupying what would otherwise be white space.
Slay the dragon
You don’t need to be a brave writer to conquer a white page. 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 – your weapon of choice.
Try using one of the four tips I have noted above to help you.
Don’t be intimidated. Be a fearless writer and be confident in knowing that you can win the battle of the white page every single time.
I started my working life as a lithographer and spent over 30 years in the printing and publishing business.
Originally from Australia, I moved to Switzerland 20 years ago. My days are spent teaching English, writing and wrestling with technology while enjoying my glorious view of Lake Geneva and the Alps.
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