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Conquering the Fear of a Blank Page When Writing

Conquering the fear of a blank page

A fresh page can strike fear into the heart of even the most seasoned writer. So many words to be written.

So. Much. Blank. Space.

… kill me.

When you’re staring at a blank page, pretty much anything else sounds like a better idea. Reorganizing the spice cabinet? I’m on it. Having my annual well-woman exam? I’d love to. Promising that I’ll face the blank page tomorrow instead? You betcha!

But stop right there. If you’re getting stuck before you even get started then you aren’t getting very far at all. And putting off the inevitable is not solving your problem. So let’s conquer that blank page. Once and for all! 

The next time you find yourself eye to eye with a fierce blank page, have no fear. Here’s an arsenal of tactics to show that page who’s boss:

Close Your Eyes and Write with Abandon

Like a potentially aggressive dog, sometimes it’s best not to look a blank page directly in the eyes. Close your eyes and you’ll be immune to the daggers of judgement that the page might seem to be shooting you. Then let your fingers fly over the keyboard without a care. Write out your idea (or half-baked idea) with ineloquent or even nearly incoherent phrasing. The point is to coax your ideas out in any form. Then you can stake your claim to that page.

I’ve often been surprised to find that I’ll keep whole phrases or sentences from this kind of free-form writing. It’s amazing what comes out when we turn off our judgement.

Set a Timer to Defeat the Blank Page

Another way to displace a fear of getting started is to race the clock. Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes. Write as much as you can before the time is up. You might hear your mother’s voice in your head insisting, “Quality over quantity!” Ignore it. Right now, we just want quantity and to disqualify that page as being blank.

3…2…1…go!

Meet Lorem Ipsum: Your New Blank Page Ally

No, it’s not my stylish Swedish friend. Lorem Ipsum is nonsensical filler text. You can grab as much as you want and paste it onto your blank page. Not so blank anymore, are you?

Often, Lorem Ipsum is used by graphic designers who need to see how blocks of content will look on a page. But I’ve found it can be helpful for pesky blank pages, too. Once it looks like I’ve already written several paragraphs, writing more doesn’t seem as hard. You can also grab gangsta lorem ipsum (if you need some –izzle on that page) or hipster ipsum (gluten-free quinoa succulents, anyone?).

Make a Freaking Outline

While this sounds like the world’s worst 10th-grade English class advice, outlines are actually fabulous. They remove the burden of creating actual copy when you just … can’t … word … very … good. With the added bonus that when you do become able to write coherently, you know exactly what you’re writing about. Grab a free download about outlining all grown up by signing up for access to the Free Resource Library, below.

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Find a More Comfortable Medium for Writing

I don’t necessarily mean changing into your stretchy pants, but hey, maybe that will work for you. If so, I say, go Lululemon with abandon.

But really, sometimes the medium of blankness can play mind games with us. An empty document on my computer can look intimidating but if I get started in a blank email window instead suddenly I’m on fire. You might try a blog post window if you blog regularly, writing with pen and paper, or even record yourself talking through your idea using a voice memo on your phone. Anything to get those ideas flowing. What blank page?

Embrace the “Shitty First Draft”

Perhaps my favorite writing advice of all time comes from author Anne Lamott. In her book on writing, Bird by Bird, she declares that all good writers write shitty first drafts, which is “how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.” If Anne is entitled to shitty first drafts, then we’re all entitled to shitty first drafts. So don’t approach a blank page thinking you need to fill it with a masterpiece. Lower your standards, perhaps to just shy of sub-par. You might find the words flow more freely.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Like Harry Potter fighting Dementors, each experience of conquering your enemy will lend confidence for the next battle. Remember all the blank pages that you have filled before, and that you will fill in the future. You got this! And while it might feel like a blank page is trying to suck your soul from your body, don’t give it that much credit. It’s just a blank page! Now go show that page who’s boss.

If you want to get that download about outlining, as well as a dozen other resources about writing better, funnier, more professional content and marketing yourself online like a boss, sign up for access below.

Excellence … here you come. And blank page: you’re done. Just stop trying, okay?

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