Fearing the Blank Page



Starting something new is hard.  It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be trying painting with water colors, snorkeling, or crossing a rope bridge.  There always has to be that first stroke, that first plunge, that first step. Once that first action is conquered the initial fear wears off and is replaced with a series of new fears.  The willingness to tackle each of these challenges is necessary to be able to complete any endeavor.

Writing is no different.

It starts with the blank page and a head full of ideas and no clue how to transfer the brilliance of those ideas into words.  The process of putting those billowy perfect ideas and concepts into concrete thoughts that actual people might read is intimidating and even terrifying. It’s as if there’s no turning back once the first letter is struck to the page.

I can attest to the phenomenon of whole colonies of ideas that had camped out in my brain for weeks simply vanishing as I begin to lay down the first words on the blank page.  The pressure to perform forces ideas into hiding and then I either have to leave the computer for a while and allow them to creep back, or continue writing until they are forced out into the open.  Once these ideas are splattered onto the page then I can begin to organize them and see if they are strong enough to hold up a story or if they need extra work.

Often ideas are quite dreamlike in their absurdity.  They make perfect sense while they are floating around in my head and often have powerful emotions associated with them.  They feel like they have true narrative power and potential.  It is only when I attempt to transfer these thoughts to the page that the ugly truth becomes clear, the ideas make less and less sense as they are brought into the light.

The origami town that folds in on itself to open secret passages for the blessed paper people who have access to the edges and the seams, must always be wary of the giant shoes that threaten to crush them.   At first this has the feel of a truly original idea and perhaps a brilliant one at that.  The idea of writing it into a fully fleshed out story, however, would require many more elements before it could be made to work, and even then, giant shoes?

Eventually all ideas, whether they need work or not, will need to reach the blank page. Here are a handful of ways to overcome the fear that comes with it.

  • Allow time to free write. This is when all reason is thrown out the window and the goal is to write down everything about an idea regardless of if it makes sense or not.  Free writes are supposed to be terrible blobs of thought so the fear that what is being written is utter drivel is gone.  The point is to capture the ideas and allow the subconscious to fill in all the little details that hadn’t been considered yet.
  • Pretend that there is no intention of sharing the story with anyone.  While it sounds really selfish, not having the pressure of thinking that other people will be immediately reading what is being written makes the process more personal.  In essence, what is being written is for the sole enjoyment of the writer.
  • Just do it. It all comes down to facing the fear of possible failure and deciding to try anyway.  The practice of regularly writing new scenes, new chapters, and new stories will make facing the blank page a matter of routine.  There will always be that twinge of apprehension and for me at least, a series of two or three false starts before things get rolling, it’s normal.

Hopefully the next time that nasty blank page comes around it won’t be a big deal.

Happy Writing!


About Jodi

Jodi L. Milner is a writer, mandala enthusiast, and educator. Her epic fantasy novel, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, was published in November 2018 and rereleased in Jan 2020. She has been published in several anthologies. When not writing, she can be found folding children and feeding the laundry, occasionally in that order.
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3 Responses to Fearing the Blank Page

  1. Hi Jodi, long time no comment. I’ve been admiring your posts from afar without taking time to interact, which is rude of me I know. I’m getting back into writing – you can run, but you can’t hide, etc. – and love your ideas here. The story that’s haunted me since my teen years won’t go away, and I’m engaged in that subtle procrastination where I feel like I need to have my world’s history since creation and each character’s bio going back three generations nailed down before I draft anything. So the keys are clacking, but I don’t know if I’m really writing, if you know what I mean. Your advice is good – I need to get things moving in a direction that results in a story!

    • Jodi says:

      So good to see you – it’s been awhile! I haven’t done my part either of visiting other blogs as much as I would like either. It’s so easy to get sidetracked, I probably could have finished my book over a year ago if I had buckled down more.

      I’d love to hear more about what you are working on.

  2. ericjbaker says:

    My hard drive is littered with the wreckage of many half-baked concepts. As you said, I had to start writing them to realize they weren’t going to work. Until you make that first key stroke, you aren’t going to find out.

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