Blank Page: A Writer’s Greatest Adventure & Biggest Fear

I had coffee this morning with a couple of my writer friends. One of the topics that came up was how we each suffer from failures of motivation at times, being unable to buckle down and do the writing that we know we want to do and which ultimately makes us happy. The reasons for the failure are myriad, and I’m sure it’s a problem most writers deal with at least some of the time.

Staring at a blank page is daunting—especially if it’s your job to fill it with meaningful words. The ideas in your head are beautiful, exciting, unique, important. What if they don’t translate that way when you get them out onto the page? At the same time, it can be terribly exciting filling that page with your vision when everything comes together just right. Those are the days we live for as writers. If you don’t start, you never know. 

I learned a simple rule many years ago that can help with getting started. Simply stated, it’s:

“When you get to a stopping point, don’t stop.”

In other words, never end a writing session at a natural break in the story, such as the end of a chapter, end of a scene, or any place where the rhythm breaks or pauses. Stop when and where you have momentum so you’ll be able to pick right up and move on the next time. I will often break off when I know specifically what the next sentence will be, and occasionally have even stopped mid-sentence.

I don’t remember where I learned this little trick, and I certainly don’t claim ownership. But it works. The only problem is it doesn’t particularly help get you started on a new project, when you’re staring at a truly blank page, ready to begin a new writing adventure. Maybe the excitement of something new will be enough, though, to get you spinning letters into words, words into sentences, and so forth.

On the topic of the blank page, I have a musical sample to share, showing that songwriters, too, face this problem. Singer/songwriter Kevin Gilbert wrote this song, “Blank Page,” and I’m sure every creative writer can completely identify with what he has to say:

Blank page
Numbly staring up at me
Daring me to try to be
Simple, yet profound

Sadly, Kevin is no longer with us, although he filled many a page before he left the stage. Now, it’s time for me—and you—to do the same.

Do you have tricks or methods for maintaining your writing momentum or for launching into new writing projects? I’d love to hear them! Share in the comments below.

Follow B. K. Winstead on Twitter at @bkwins

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4 thoughts on “Blank Page: A Writer’s Greatest Adventure & Biggest Fear

  1. cryptictown

    The opposite works for me–I always try to stop writing at a place where I don’t know what’s happening next or how to solve a problem, etc. Then I sleep on it, dream on it, think about it the next day at work, and generally, something comes to me. Then I’m dying to get at it again.

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    1. bkwins Post author

      Isn’t that funny? Just shows how everyone’s habits are different. The real point is to do what works. I also work through story problems while sleeping, working, and everything else that isn’t writing, but that’s usually part of the story that’s further out than the next words on the page.

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  2. Marianne Knowles

    Stopping mid-scene helps me, too. It’s been two days since I’ve been able to write after stopping about five paragraphs into the next scene. I’ve already decided I’m going to change the scene I began by bringing in another character, so that’s where I’ll start. So it’s a mix of the two approaches you two described.

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    1. bkwins Post author

      Hi Marianne! I’ve had that experience as well. Sometimes that time away, no matter how brief, does allow your subconscious to “fix” problems you didn’t realize you had or come up with better areas to explore. Hey, it’s all good if it keeps you moving forward, right?

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