If you write anything, you’ve no doubt come into contact with the fearsome creature known as ‘The Blank Page’. This fellow doesn’t discriminate between styles. He’ll show up whether you’re writing an email, an essay for school, articles for your blog and even the first page of the inspired new novel you’ve been planning.
As if he wasn’t intimidating enough alone, he has an accomplice: The Blinking Cursor.
You’d think, as your partner-in-crime on all these writing adventures, you’d get a little support from the cursor. Even if it’s just a whispered prompt to get you started. But, alas, nothing. He’s best friends with The Blank Page and you’re on your own.
Together, they wreak havoc. Sapping away inspiration and driving any thoughts about your project toward dinner plans or the dirty plates cluttering the kitchen.
So how do you get past this frightful duo?
With people saying, ‘inspiration is for amateurs’ or even ‘there’s no such thing as writer’s block’, staring at a blank page can be disheartening. When a deadline is thrown into the mix, the bullies that are The Blank Page and The Blinking Cursor can drive you mad.
Fortunately, there are several ways to get the creative juices flowing again.
1) Don’t Panic!
Deadlines are looming and you have to finish this before the kids come home from school or you’ll never get it done. You sit there, staring at the impenetrable white screen before you, watching the cursor blink at you. Taunting you.
All of a sudden there are so many other things you’ve forgotten to do. Your parents are visiting for dinner and the house is a mess. The cat just knocked the laundry basket flying so there are clothes everywhere. Last night’s dishes are still cluttering the sink. You have no idea where the vacuum is. What about the-
Panic’s diet consists of inspiration. It won’t stop until it’s devoured every last scrap of it, leaving you an empty husk.
Count to ten. Breathe – in for one, out for two. Push the thoughts away and focus.
You can do this!
2) Step Away from the Computer
Not only does taking a step back get you away from the dastardly duo bullying you into a fearful mess, it lets your subconscious take over.
Leave your computer, notes and anything else related to your writing at your desk. Including thoughts. Let your mind wander.
In fact, the more it gets off topic, the better.
While you’re out jogging, taking a nature walk or sunbathing on the beach and thinking of everything but The Blinking Cursor and his trusty sidekick, your brain is still ticking over. By the time you return from your adventure, something you’ve seen or eaten or heard may have sparked your imagination.
The words just flow. It's mysterious, but it works almost every time!
3) Writing Prompts
These can be helpful, simply because they give you a fixed point to work from. Maybe it’s a starting sentence or a story idea. Whatever it is, they can help you get your brain working again. You get your fingers moving and churn out a different project for a few minutes, then circle back round to your original task.
With your brain back in gear, you’re one step closer to beating the irritating cursor and that fear inducing blank screen.
4) Find a Sounding Board
Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary venture. In fact, it’s much better if it isn’t.
Join your local writer’s group or bounce ideas off your family and friends.
Bear in mind the risk here. With all these outside opinions, there’ll be a few that don’t gel with the vision in your head. You poke and prod but they just won’t fit. You’re more lost than you started.
Don’t try and force anything. Instead, take time to digest everything they tell you. There’s bound to be some gems in there.
If not, keep the notes handy. They’ll come in useful later.
5) Write What You Feel
If you write new content frequently, getting new ideas can be more daunting than actually writing. So write about what you feel or something you’ve succeeded at during the week. Even just small things like passing a writing goal or something you’ve learned.
You might think tiny successes aren’t all that important but writers thrive on meeting goals and conquering the Dreaded Duo. Hearing about fellow artisans succeeding fills us with joy – and determination to meet our own goals.
While writing about all these adventures, you may even spark more ideas in the process.
6) Keep a Journal
Ideas are fickle. They’ll appear and disappear like a ghost and they’re just as elusive. Keeping a journal on hand will let you capture them when they appear. While they might not mean much at the time, you can flick back through whenever you may need to and let all these ideas help you.
Notebooks are your friends.
7) Just Write
When everything else fails and your deadline is at the end of the week, all you can really do is write. Cringe your way through wordy sentences and confusing phrases and just get all your thoughts onscreen. Get rid of all that blank space.
Remember! Nobody has to read your first draft except you.
Afterward, the real magic can happen.
Inspiration is a timid creature. It’s easily chased off by horrors like The Blank Page and The Blinking Cursor. But, like a puppy, there are plenty of ways of coaxing it back if you give yourself enough time.
The next time the dreaded cursor blinks alone on a blank page, hopefully you won’t find it as daunting!
About the Author
Jennifer White is a British writer with a macabre interest in all things ghostly or otherwise undead. She posts short stories to her blog – www.nimriel.com – under the pseudonym, Nim Riel, and her work has earned several Honorable Mentions from L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future competition.