The Tyranny of the Blank Page

So you have a calling to write; at least, you thought you did until you sat down and stared into the abyss of the blank page with its blinking cursor taunting you, insisting you have nothing worthwhile to say. You suddenly fear that all of your seemingly great ideas are completely innocuous, not to mention a bit sophomoric, and you are beginning to doubt whether you really have a calling to write at all. Perhaps it was just indigestion. You may as well save some time, chuck the whole thing and resign yourself to reading the works of other writers, the real writers. The good new is, you’ll never have to face the tyranny of the blank page again.

Stop it right there. You are a writer.

There are great ideas inside of you and words that must be written—you just have to get to them. I’m going to tell you how.

The first thing you must do is promise yourself that no one will see what you write upon your blank page. It is for your eyes and your eyes alone. This is not a mind game. I’m not trying to implement some form of reverse psychology here. No one is going to see what you write upon this page because you aren’t going to show anyone.

It’s essential that you don’t show anyone what you’ve written because the moment you start thinking that someone might read what you’ve written upon your blank page you’ll be too careful with what you write. You’ll start overthinking everything and you won’t say the things that need to be said—the things you were called to say. The blank page is your safe space where you can write without restraint.

Now for the actual writing: start with what you are thinking about at this very moment, what you cannot get out of your mind. Throw all the words you have about that thing onto the page—stream of consciousness style. It doesn’t need to make sense. The point is to write all of your thoughts about that thing down on the paper. And once you’ve done that, keep writing.

Write down your doubts and fears, any facts you’ve learned or observations you’ve made. Write about your favorite book or what you love about the spring. If a verse from the Bible pops into your mind, jot that down, too. Describe the way your boss slumps into a room or the scent in the air before it rains on a hot summer day. Or write about the unusual things you see like the platinum blonde on the plane who reeked of tequila and insisted that her service dog was a bundle of nerves (the dog who was so quiet and still you could have sworn it was a toy). She kept feeding him ice from her margarita to calm him down.

Don’t stop to think about what you’re writing or how it all fits together. You’ll connect the necessary dots later. Just keep writing because there’s more to be said.

Don’t stop for anything, not even to search an online thesaurus for a better word than scared or to Google the proper use of that and which. Before you know it you’ll be on Facebook, looking through the photos of your friend’s cousin’s mother-in-law’s beach vacation. You don’t even know this woman but you’ll waste 10 minutes looking through her pictures.

Don’t even get up to go to the restroom or get a drink of water because on your way back it will occur to you that the living room needs to be vacuumed and the refrigerator is just ridiculous. You’ll be tempted to vacuum and then clean out the refrigerator, even though the state of that appliance hasn’t bothered you for the past 6 months. The moldy leftovers from 3 weeks ago can wait until you’re done writing.

You cannot allow any room for distractions.

Keep writing thought after thought and don’t stop until your hand aches and you have nothing left to say. You may have a page or you may have ten pages. That doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that you wrote down everything that was on your mind.

Then—and this is the hardest part because you’re going to want to press on and hammer out your masterpiece—you get up and go for a walk. Don’t read through what you’ve written. Your work is done for now. Take pride in that.

Walk. Pray. Allow your thoughts to percolate. In that time and space the things that need to be said, your great idea that demands your attention, will surface. It was always there. You just had to get a few things out of the way in order to get to it. Now you are ready to hammer out that masterpiece.

Keep writing.

The world needs to hear what you have to say.

Author: Rebekah Durham

Rebekah Durham lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her three children.  She is a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary and has written for numerous publications. She is an avid reader and in particular an admirer of C.S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, G.K. Chesterton, Henri Nouwen, and Dorothy L. Sayers (in no certain order). She'd also blindly follow Miss Marple (Agatha Christie's famous spinster sleuth) anywhere she wanted to go.

3 thoughts on “The Tyranny of the Blank Page”

  1. See, I’ve always had the opposite problem. I have never had an issue writing on a blank page (though I do occasionally pop over to a thesaurus). Instead, I’ll write easily and then start second-guessing myself. Usually I come up with the agreement that everything I write is horrible (I know it isn’t, but that’s what my brain tells me). But I know so many other writers who are terrified of starting that first page (whether it’s of a book or a college writing assignment). And I totally agree that distractions are one of the main reasons people don’t bother writing. And it’s funny that you mention walking and praying, because that is exactly what I do when I can’t figure out where to go next in what I’m writing. God and fresh air are the best ways to clear one’s head! Great post! I really enjoyed reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

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