Fear of the blank page, or writers block, or blank page anxiety, whatever you want to call it, is something I don’t suffer from too often. And no, it’s not because I’m super confident and have wonderful self-belief, (ha! If only) it’s because years ago, I was a part of a writing boot camp.
There were about twenty of us in that boot camp and the rules were simple: you had to submit a short story to the group every week. You had to critique every story submitted. If you didn’t play by the rules, you were kicked out.
I lasted about six months.
I learned a lot from my time there, but the best thing I took away from it was how to get over the fear of the blank page.
I used to be one of those writers who would stare at the blank screen and flashing cursor and then slide away from it, anxiety tickling the base of my stomach. I used to start a sentence and then delete it, start it again, then delete it and repeat this process many, many times. Until that boot camp, when this wasn’t an option. I had to write to a tight deadline.
The five bullet points below are what I use today, I have limited time to write and don’t have the luxury of staring at a blank screen for half an hour waiting for inspiration to strike.
So here’s what I learned on how to get over the fear of the blank page and get writing.
Map out the scene
Get a scrap of paper and make notes of what you’re about to write. If you use a writing notebook, some of this work should already be done. Who is in the scene? What’s their motivation? What are they doing and where are they? It can be a bullet point list, it can be a collection of words, but once you organise your thoughts on what it is you’re writing, you won’t be so scared. And, you’ll write fast.
Don’t start with your first sentence
It’s pointless, because chances are, you’ll delete that perfectly structured sentence in the edits. So instead of toiling away on what you should start with, just start. Write anything down. Write the bit that you planned to happen in the third paragraph. Let yourself off the hook of having to have the best possible start.
Start with dialogue or action
It’s always easier to write people speaking, or moving, or just doing anything. I find that if I want to start a scene with a description of the setting I take an age. So leave the wonderful atmospheric paragraph on how the light was hitting the window for later.
Do it now
Don’t do the laundry, or the dishes, or clear out that drawer, start writing now. I am a big fan of procrastination and if I don’t get mean with myself I’ll end up scrolling on Instagram or Twitter. And how many words is that getting down? Exactly. So turn off the wi-fi and write.
Be kind to yourself
The pressure we put on ourselves when writing can be borderline ridiculous. When I ask other people who tell me they want to write but can’t, is usually down to a voice in their head telling them they can’t write. I’m here to tell you that you can. What you create is valuable and worthy so stop listening to unhelpful self sabotage and start writing. You’ll benefit from it in more ways than you realise.
Over on my page @zoeleawriter, I chat about how creatives can use storytelling techniques for greater impact.
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