If you’ve ever attempted to write anything more creative than a shopping list, you’ve probably felt the dread of that blank page staring back at you. The white expanse of infinite possibilities, a world too dauntingly large to take that first step into it … Right?
Well, you’re not alone, and as the saying goes, commune naufragium, omnibus solacium. Which basically means that grief, when shared, doesn’t smart quite as much. It is honestly SUCH a common feeling among writers! I’m sure many can relate: you finally sit down and open a document, THE document; you stare at it for a minute (or 10), and suddenly you get the urge to put up that shelf that’s been sitting in the corner for three months. Or you remember that odd pain you got in your back last week and start looking up symptoms on the internet, and after 45 minutes you know everything about cervical spondylosis in the Humboldt penguin. Or you spend an afternoon perfecting the layout, formatting, pagination, font, size, colour etc. only to end up not writing anything anyway.
Whether it’s writing a thesis, or a poem, or a novel, or even just a letter, starting feels like the worst ordeal. The utter panic of having to sift through the thousands of options available can sometimes feel too much.
I’m here to give you one tip to get over that fear.
Yes, one tip. And it’s an easy one.
DIRTY THAT PAGE.
That is really all there is to it. Do not keep that page immaculate. Once you have ‘soiled’ that uninterrupted vastness, you have a grip on it. You have conquered it. Whether you’re staring at a computer screen or a paper notebook page, it’s the same.
Have a title? Start with the title.
No title? Maybe there’s a quote that fits what you want to say: write it down.
No quote? Try bullet points. At random, without following a scheme or an order: just write bullet points. You’ll fix the plan later.
No exact plan? Write down your ‘why’. Why do I want or need to write this? Start with that. The magic will unfold as your thoughts make their way onto the page.
No ‘why’, but just a desire to express yourself? Doodle, or paste an image that inspires you onto the computer document.
I hear your brainwaves: but what if it doesn’t turn out perfect, if I start my thoughts in the wrong order, if I don’t put my best foot forward? What then? Will I ever be able to improve it or will my writing be too far gone in the wrong direction?
Well, there is no limit to how much you can edit (but this is a story for another time). You can absolutely perfect anything you write, and turn it into your masterpiece.
But you’ll never have a masterpiece if you don’t start, right?
That’s why I entreat you to just attack that blank page. Once that first ink, or those first words or images are on there, I promise you it will all gradually fall into place.
(And when you’re done, of course send it over to us at Blackwater Press!) ;-D