Dealing with Blank Page Syndrome

Gene Fowler, an American journalist, author and dramatist once said, “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

Sometimes it does feel like that, but on other occasions it’s like honey flowing smoothly, organically from brain to page. I used to experience blank page syndrome a lot, but over the years I’ve managed to find ways to get over this minor form of writer’s block.

  • First, don’t sweat it, it’s natural and you’re not the first writer to be afflicted and you won’t be the last.
  • If that blank is staring up at you and don’t know where to start, try going for a walk and clear your head. Often, it’s all the other stuff in our mind fighting for attention that’s causing the problem.
  • Start writing – anything, anything at all. Even if it’s total garbage just get some words down on the page, even if it’s, “This is stupid, what am I supposed to write …?”
  • Do a little research into what you are going to write about, even if you know everything about the topic. This helps widen your perspective. Narrow views are like perfection – they hamper creativity.
  • Start writing a paragraph or two, even if your thoughts are only half-formed. Keep moving the paragraphs down the page until you can’t think of anything else to write about the topic. Re-read what you’ve written and extract any good bits and move them to the top of the page. Delete the crap. Violà you’ve started!
  • Don’t judge your first draft – let it be awful. Once it’s done you can edit it, change it, slash and burn it. But, you’ll be working on words, not a blank page.
  • Don’t strive for perfection when writing – that’s what’s editing is for!
  • If you continually struggle with blank page syndrome, start journaling. Yes, keep a journal about anything; your life, your thoughts, your work, whatever. It doesn’t matter what you write, no one needs to read it. It will get you into the habit of writing. You’ll be surprised at how much this simple thing can help your writing.

The above list is a great start, however the single biggest thing that has helped my ability to beat the blank page is meditation. Before I get down to serious writing I meditate for between 10 and 30-minutes. When I first started doing this I couldn’t believe how much better my writing was, and how much clearer my thoughts were. I remember a client called me with a rush job just after I’d meditated, she needed a 700-word blog post on a topic with which I was not familiar. I did a quick bit of research and wrote the article in one sitting. It was 45-minutes, from the moment she called, to the time I delivered the article. She was amazed. So was I – this was one of the first times I experienced this phenomenon, but it’s not been the last!

So, don’t fret the blank page it’s not your enemy, it’s simply there waiting for your genius to encompass it.