Beating that Scary Blank Page–A Writer’s Nightmare
If you’re a writer, at some point you’ve probably encountered it. The scary blank page. What makes it scary is that you have absolutely no idea how to fill it…and all the other blank pages that come after. Bits and pieces of ideas are swirling around in your head, and you’ve got disjointed notes scattered across different files on your computer. Your desk is full of barely legible scraps of paper you scribbled on in haste (gotta get that flash of an idea on paper before it dissipates), and notebooks you dragged with you on trips, or maybe to the park. Somehow it all has to come together into a cohesive story. But where to begin?
I’ve been staring at that blank page for a few months now. Mostly because my overly-busy life hasn’t afforded me the time to center myself and organize my thoughts. I thought maybe if I just tried not to stress out about it, the ideas would start coming together on their own. You know, like when you forget someone’s name and the only way to remember it is to think of something else for a while?
But you probably don’t have to be a writer to realize that plan was destined to fail. After all, I’m not trying to remember something forgotten, I’m trying to create something totally new. Its threads must tie neatly into everything that came before, as well as everything that is yet to come after. The further I get into my series, the more complex that job becomes. Sometimes it gets pretty intimidating and I wonder if I’m up to the challenge I’ve set before myself.
So the blank page continues to stare at me, and the longer it looms, the scarier it seems. And that has been bothering me. A lot! So now I’m pushing myself to get past the anxiety and really focus on the task at hand. I’ve done it before, and I know I can do it again. But first I must stop thinking like a writer, and get into the minds of my readers. What are they expecting to happen next? Which of those expectations must be fulfilled, and which do I hold back until further on in the series? What surprising twists and turns will make the story fresh and exciting, rather than predictable? What will move and intrigue my readers to keep coming back for the next book, and the next after that?
It is in answering those questions that I can more easily get back to the job of being a writer; balancing expectation with inspiration, and weaving together what seems to be nothing but a random tangle of loose threads into a vibrant, tightly woven fabric. I’m already starting to see the patterns and colors as they come together in the back of my mind. Scenes are taking shape, characters are whispering their thoughts to me as I sleep, and the mood of the book is building in my chest.
That blank page doesn’t have any words on it yet, but all the signs are telling me the time is just about right to begin. Once again, I’ll do my best to fill it, and hundreds more, with words that will take my readers on new adventures, full of heart, wonder, and suspense. In the end, if I do my job well, my readers will inspire me to face another new set of blank pages. But that’s for another year—one challenge at a time.
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