Five Simple Tips to Conquer the Fear of the Blank Page
We’ve all been there... The perturbation, the endless procrastination, and a barrage of other unnecessary glances into the thesaurus. Anything to avoid deflowering that pristine white canvas on the screen - or a typewriter, if you’re still kicking it old-school.
Writing is difficult, we all know that. Yet a lot of us still love it and do it. Why? Because that feeling of when inspiration is gushing out of you syllable after syllable is hard to replicate, and is one of the most satisfying creative releases.
Yet, those moments are hard to come by, and often you find yourself staring at that glowing, pale son of a bitch piece of digital papyrus to no avail. (Pardon the somewhat personal verbal assault.)
The beginning is always hardest part, we’ve all heard that, but us writers even have a particular phobia derived from our troubles with beginnings - and that is the fear of the blank page.
So how do we overcome this phenomenon and finally stab that nib into the paper and draw ink? Well, everyone has their methods , but here are a few random ones that may help you with this plight.
Get Back To Basics
Shut that screen down, or at least put it on standby. Grab a notepad - preferably not the one on your iPhone (although this is where this article was composed) - and get you hand on a pen or a pencil; or a quill, but even I will say that this is taking things about too far.
Now, get a feel for that pad, carry it around, doodle on it, make it your safe place . For this is exactly what this point is all about. The pad appears inconsequential, kindred, there are no wrongs or rights. Whatever hits that yellow paper will get recycled through and through. This is not even the first draft - this is a sketch.
Let that nib run free, bullet-point, write things in odd places of the page. This not your masterpiece, but the antithesis of it, so treat it with the same disregard, for in the end, it will get you so heated, that when it comes to typing those first lines, your hands will beat those keys into submission.
Every wordsmith has their own piece of prime real estate where they beat on the anvil of letters. Now, if yours lets you bang out novel after novel without end, then disregard this tip, for this is clearly not your issue. But for the rest of us a change of scenery can be a breath of fresh oxygen that is needed to fire up that writing engine.
Take it outside, go to a park, or even embrace the cliche or being a writer in a Starbucks (I’ve done plenty of great work there). And if you don’t feel like travelling, then go lie on your bed, or better yet, on the floor (trust me, it’s an experience), for as long as it alters your dimensional perception, then it shall give you some new perceptive in your work.
There is a reason why Stephen King said that: “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” If your creative juices aren’t flowing naturally and that page appears far too intimidating to even sit down, grab your favourite book - or something new - and go through the pages until you find that paragraph that really makes those fingers itch for the keyboard - like Hunter S. Thompson’s water-mark or Hemingway’s broken places (Farewell or Feast) - and I’m sure that what once has gotten you to the point of writing, will do so again.
Watch a Movie About It
Now this one may sound blasphemous, but any writer can’t deny that the vision of another writer doing their thing does not light a fire under that sedentary ass - be it out of competition or admiration.
Whether it is a flick with a good montage of an author pouring out a hearty tractat, or a solid adaptation, a writer on the screen always seems to inspire someone to try their hand out at the craft - so if you’re already scribbling, then it will remind you to get back to it.
A writer on the screen has that undeniable charisma of creative genius and bohemian zest that just makes you seethe with an urge to emulate that lifestyle, and thus, may just inspire you to get those paragraphs rolling.
A few suggestions might include:
'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas'
'Midnight In Paris'
...and my favourite go to (which is actually a TV show)
Turn up the Sound
It rumoured that the aforementioned great Stephen King would blast Metallica and other Metal greats while writing his early works - but then again he was also pounding insane amounts of cocaine, alcohol, and pills; but that’s neither here or there.
If you’re looking for a clean adrenaline rush to tackle that paper battlefield, then throwing on something groovy might not hurt - I should know, I used to write album reviews for a music magazine, and once that tape starts rolling, some words are bound to come along.
Be it Bach or Black Sabbath, get that keyboard rocking and rolling with whatever suits the scene, and maybe even slip some of that energy into whatever you are composing. Though be careful, for too much of a good thing can also be distracting. Therefore don’t go prancing around the living when the song grab hold of your hips. For you are there to pound those keys, not the dance floor.
(Bonus) Just Own It
Look that page in the face and embrace the struggle. Type as many ‘fuck yous’ as you can, spank the keyboard silly, or just stare that page down. Because at the end of it all, without you, it’s nothing.
In reality, only you know how to beat the fear of the blank page. Sometimes it just happens, that light comes along and you march towards that keyboard like a knight in shining armour knocking heads out of the park. Here are just a few tips that worked for me, so don’t hold me accountable if you’re not on your way to a Pulitzer next week, for it’s all down to you to embrace that fear and get to scribbling.