Writing Tip of the Week: Facing the Ominous Blank Page

Happy 2022, everyone!  I’m sure by now you’ve planned out your writing goals for the new year, but sometimes the most challenging part of digging into those goals is facing the ominous and foreboding blank page.  Whether on your laptop with a blinking cursor, or a pad of lined paper, the blank page is something all writers face, from newbies to seasoned vets.

So, how do you break through the intimidation factor that can occur when staring into the blank abyss?

Fact: The Blank Page is Inevitable

The blank page will always be an ever-present factor in your writing life.  It can’t hurt you.  It can’t harm you.  It can’t do anything but sit there and quietly taunt you.  

Don’t let it win!

You can’t learn to swim unless you get in the water, and you can’t ride a bike without getting on one.  And you can’t conquer the blank page without adding words and conquering its blankness.

Here are a couple ways to defeat it.

Write Anything

Conquer your fear by jumping into the blank page by writing whatever pops into your head.  It can be relevant to your story, but the trick is to eliminate the blankness by adding words to the canvas.  

Write a poem.  Write a thank-you note.  Write a logline.  Just write something to get the words on the page.

Write Down Questions

Your story has a lot of elements.  If you’re having a hard time diving into the meat and potatoes of the writing, write down questions related to your story, characters, setting, etc.  This will break up the blank page and give you story-specific things to think about as you begin your writing process.

Don’t Start at the Start

At this stage, there’s no need to begin your writing project at the beginning.  What chapter, scene, or sequence gets you excited about the project?  Is there a character’s description that intrigues you most?

Why not start there?

It’s all part of the same project, and if writing that piece gets the words flowing, then that’s the best place to start.

Remember, you can always go back and write the beginning later.

This year, fight the good by dominating and defeating the evil and dastardly blank page.  Your creativity is counting on you!

Happy New Year, and I’ll see you in two weeks!

Writing Tip of the Week: Giving Yourself Permission as a Writer

Creativity begins within the privacy of our minds.  We all have thoughts, ideas, plans, goals, and dreams, but not everyone takes those elements and artistically expresses them.  Whether through writing, art, dance, song, or film, creative expression can be a hurdle that prevents many from getting their vision out of their head and into a tangible space.

But why?  Why do creative people often have hang-ups and issues taking what they know in their heads and hearts is a good idea and making it more than a passive internal flirtation with their Muse?  

I think it comes from fear.

Fear that what’s in your head won’t translate to the page on the first try.  Fear that people won’t enjoy or understand your intentions with the creative work you’ve molded and shaped for months or years.  Fear of rejection, of failure, of the unknown.

But you haven’t written a word yet, so how do you know any of the above will happen?

You don’t.

And you won’t know if it will be a success or not until you give yourself permission to get the ideas out of your head.  

Today, I’m going to offer up five statements for you to think about the next time you’re hesitant about bringing an idea to life.  Remember that this initial version of the idea is for your eyes only. Take the fear out of the equation. Know that you and your words are in their own Circle of Trust.

Now, I encourage you, whenever doubt creeps in, or fear enters your mind as you embark on a new creative endeavor, that you say one or all of these statements to yourself to help move your forward in your creative journey:

I Give Myself Permission to…Write Badly with Pride

You can’t edit what doesn’t exist, and every writer has to start their story at some level of quality, so don’t be afraid to write crap in exchange for knowing you can go back and fix it later.  The key is to get the ideas on the page so they can evolve.  

Be proud that you wrote them down and now can make them better.

I Give Myself Permission to…Change Things in the Story That Aren’t Working

Outlines, Beat Sheets, Notecards, and other forms of structuring your story are great but don’t marry yourself to what you planned out 100%.  Give yourself the ability to go on tangents and explore new possibilities, new story arcs, and new character developments.  

A story is a road trip.  You’re going from Point A to Point B, but a few detours to some unknown places can always add to the adventure.  Allow yourself to travel these pathways and see what happens.

I Give Myself Permission to…Challenge Myself as a Writer

If you ever wanted to explore writing in a new genre or medium, do it.  If you write short stories but want to write a screenplay, learn what it takes to format and create a 110-page screen story and make it a reality.  If you are a novelist who writes romance and want to try writing horror, go for it.  

Experimenting and challenging yourself as a writer gives you the ability to stretch your creative muscles. Along the way, you may pick up some writing advice from this other area that can help strengthen the genre or medium you are comfortable in.  

This can also be used as a writing exercise. You challenge yourself to write a paragraph without using a certain commonly overused word like ‘that,’ or even challenging yourself to write stronger dialogue or description.  

I Give Myself Permission to…Accept Constructive Criticism as Helpful

The word ‘Constructive’ is the key here.  If it’s advice or notes that can make your writing stronger, or assist in making your future work better, then add that to your toolbox.  If it’s not something that will help you now or in the future, ignore it. 

I once gave notes to a woman on her screenplay.  She had a Russian character who was always drunk on Vodka.  I said that this was a cliché, and she should consider changing some aspect of the character to make him less of a stereotype.  Her response: “F-ck you!”  Needless to say, that was when we parted ways because this was the least of the scripts issues, and if she was unable to handle something fairly benign, I knew my other notes would not be helpful, either.  

My goal was to help make her script stronger and better, but she was focused on the criticism and not the constructive aspect.  When you receive a note on your work, divorce yourself from being its creator.  Ask yourself if you were reading this as an outsider, would you have the same comment or question?  More than likely, yes. 

Remember: Constructive = Helpful.

I Give Myself Permission to…Have Fun When Writing!

No matter what you write, you have to enjoy the process, enjoy the journey, and enjoy what you’re working on.  It’s reflected in your work.  If you had a good time, invested in the characters and their story, laughed at their jokes, cried with their tragedies, and held your breath while they were in peril, you can bet the audience will do the same.  

Passion can transfer from the page to the reader or from the screen to the viewer, and the more heart and energy and love and fun you put into it, the greater reward it is for the audience.  

If you don’t like your story, figure out why and change it for yourself.  Write the story you want to write, that you want to see, that you want people to enjoy.  

I hope these statements or affirmations give you the permission your need to move past those blocks that plague all writers, new and experienced.  You have a story to tell.  Don’t let fear stop you from making it a reality.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you in two weeks!