How to kick that Blank Page right in the teeth…
You are inspired. You have the urge to write something, so you brew a mug of coffee and sit down at your trusty keyboard. You crack open a word processor and select a blank document. It’s a new day, and you are going to seize the opportunity it has brought you; the opportunity to change your life by doing something you love doing for the sake of freaking doing it.
But as that cursor starts blinking, you freeze. Maybe it took you by surprise, or maybe this is as far as you ever get. How do you start writing your story? You don’t know the answer, but you feel the blank page mocking you. Its malicious cursor blinks perfectly in sync with the pulse of the blank page’s laughter. The whiteness of the landscape grows larger, and you are engulfed, your story snuffed out before it even began.
I know the feeling.
What Conquering The Blank Page Is Like
Do you remember learning to ride a bicycle (if you still haven’t, put that on your to-do list for yesterday)? I’m not referring to the “you never forget how to ride a bike” analogy that everyone uses. I want you to attempt to remember the actual learning process.
At first you couldn’t do it. You just couldn’t. Forget about it, Daddy-o. You might have had a screaming meltdown at your dad, or he might have had a screaming meltdown at you. Whatever happened, you didn’t just hop on and go (unless you were a prodigy bicyclist). You were scared and had to be coerced or you fell after making it a few feet or fear froze your feet and tipped you right over. But eventually, you gathered up your permanent emotional scars, wore them with pride, and bicycling started to happen… ish.
You were wobbly, and you were probably wobbly for quite some time. You could stay on a driveway, but it would be awhile before you could keep that thing on a painted white roadway boundary line. But eventually, you became comfortable enough to form bicycling into a second nature. Over the course of time, you didn’t have to think to start riding that two-wheeled taunter. You just told it to shut up and take you to point B.
How The Blank Page Almost Made Me Quit Before Starting
For about six months, give or take, I wrote a new short story (Storygrams) every single day without a miss. I reached #192 before I had to stop because my cinematography work started flooding in. I had written tons of blogs across multiple websites over the years. I had written hundreds of songs. I had written marketing copy for myself and for other companies countless times.
But fiction… Let’s just say it terrified me. How do you start writing on a blank page when there are no rules? How do you begin and end the first sentence of a work that has no constraints, where your imagination is the only limitation?
Did you know that courage cannot exist without fear? It’s true! I almost didn’t even start the Storygrams that launched me into having followers of my stories, people that actually loved them and wanted more of them. Even more than a “following,” it launched confidence in myself and in my own abilities as a writer.
It was courage. It was the willingness to first just get a sentence down and go from there. For many stories/days in a row, I was wobbly. I had gotten on the bike, but each time was a bit scary, and I was completely unsure of myself. I kept at it, though. I just kept on doing it. I wrote when I didn’t feel like writing and when I was excited about it, and every day was a new story, which meant a brand new blank page.
Some Practicality For Your Courage
I firmly believe that feel-good advice without practical application is nothing more than a Sunday sermon…
Over the past few weeks of writing, I have analyzed myself for your benefit. I knew I wanted to write this blog post to help you, but I wanted to make certain that I could actually tell you how to shove the blank page’s mockery back in its own face. I can sit here all day and tell you things like “overcome your fear” and “just start writing” and “write a little every day,” but none of it will actually help you write that first sentence. So, here is something I’ve discovered that I categorically do every time:
Write down one TRUTH about your story.
That’s it. Seriously, that’s it. I thought I’d be making a list of bullet points, steps for you to follow, but this is the advice that is left after it all is boiled down to the core of the how question
Whatever dire details are rattling around in your head, whatever courageous characters, whatever perfect plot, just write down one truth about it. Make a simple truthful statement. If it doesn’t lead you to writing your next sentence, write one more truthful sentence. Do that enough times, and you will, I promise, have sent the blank page running back to its momma. You can always go back later and make the sentence more colorful or remove it entirely, but you will have conquered the blank page!
To give you an example, my Storygrams were always associated with a physical picture (as opposed to a mental picture). If you go back to the beginning of the Storygrams and take a look at the first sentences, you’ll notice how often I merely made a statement about the picture itself for the first sentence. I may have sprinkled in analogies, or I may have gone back and changed the first sentence for some of them, but generally speaking, I simply told the truth.
Give it a try and watch your fear of the blank page melt away over time!
If this advice helped you, or you have some other great advice for conquering that beastly blank buffoon, be sure to share it in the comments below! And if you’re an obsessive lover of stories, like I am, consider signing up for my email list for exclusive story lover community content and future perks!