On Writing: Facing your Fear of the Blank Page

May 11, 2020

How do I start writing?

This is the most common writing question I get from practicing writers and my first-time clients. They all want to create something so true to them, and so well-crafted, that they psych themselves out before even giving it a shot. The blank page lies open before them, so eerily clean.

 

When I answer their question, I’m usually met with a sigh of relief. You mean I don’t have to get it perfectly right the first time? (They usually always knew this, somewhere inside, but hearing it from an actual writer and compassionate coach is such a relief.)

So, here’s what I tell them: Get something, anything, on the page that’s completely unrelated to what you want to write. It can be nonsense, or it can even be something other than words. Just take away the blank page’s power by transforming it into something other than… a blank page.

Here are my favourite techniques for breaking through the writer’s block you get when starting a new piece of writing. There’s a technique perfect for new writer’s and those returning to writing after a long time. Next, there’s an approach for writers that are actively practicing. And finally, there’s an easy bonus that’s perfect for anyone with writing to be done.

New writers and those returning to the craft after a long time away

Morning Pages

Morning Pages are a great option for beginners new to regular writing, or those getting back into it. That’s because it’s a daily practice focused on forming a habit. The creator of Morning Pages, Julia Cameron, recommends filling 3 notebook pages at the beginning of every day with stream of consciousness writing.

Girl holding a cup of coffee beside a notebook.

What’s that? One of the easiest types of writing around. The key to stream of consciousness writing is to put down every thought that flows into your head until 3 pages are full. Never take the pen from the page. Even if you have to scribble “I don’t know what to write, this sucks, I don’t know what to write….” to keep the pen moving, do it. Don’t worry about making any sense, spelling things properly, or what anyone else would think. They’ll never get to read it! You can even rip up the pages afterwards or put them through the shredder. The real purpose is this: to clear out all the yucky, self-censoring thoughts holding you back until pure creativity flows like fresh water.

Not only do Morning Pages get you in the habit of writing every day, but they also give you a tool to let fear and self doubt state their piece. Otherwise, they’ll hurt you and distract you by reminding you of all you should be doing instead. By letting them get all their ideas out before you try to be creative, you can identify their ploys and recognize that their arguments about why “you suck” aren’t any good at all.  Through Morning Pages, you start to acknowledge your fear without letting it run the show. Creativity learns to take the steering wheel instead.

Woman with a nearly full journal.Every day, once you’ve finished writing 3 pages, feel free to move on with life, or even go on to your actual, intended writing for the day.

Practicing writers

Freewriting

I write on a regular basis (whether blogs, articles, marketing materials, memoirs, etc.) At this stage in my practice, rather than Morning Pages, freewriting is my personal choice when it comes to busting through an empty page. Here’s how it works:

  • Open up your notebook. (Even though I type my “official” writing on a computer, I actually like freewriting in a notebook because it’s so casual and separate.)
  • Next, set a timer for 5 minutes.
  • Now, pen in hand, start scribbling out, stream of consciousness (read the instructions for this above, with Morning Pages), as quickly as the pen can keep up with your brain. Eventually, You’ll likely find that after a couple minutes, they find a sort of rhythm together. That can also be a sign that you’re ready to move onto your actual writing plans, even before your 5 minutes is up.

Bonus for all writers (when writing by hand)

Journals that are perfect for freewriting

My copywriting mentor Jacqueline Fisch (copy is stuff like a website’s Sales and Home pages) has an awesome technique for all writer’s fighting the blank page. Ready? Here it is…

Scribble

Yup, just scribble or doodle at the top of the page. And voilà! It’s a blank page no more. Simple and effective. Suddenly, that page can’t possibly be the final, polished edition. So anything goes! Intimidation factor, smashed.

It’s your turn

Have you tried any of these writing practices? Please share how they did (or didn’t) work for you in the comments.

Are there any writing blocks you face other than the blank page? Let me know and I’ll give you a few, easy techniques for taking them down. 😉


Spots are open for BOTH of my signature, online coaching programs. Blog Your Way to Visibility and Writing Coaching (great for aspiring memoirists.) 👉 Easily apply by clicking those links or sending me an email at info@intrepidemma.com. I’ll be thrilled to support you!

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://emmagivens.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Emma-30-scaled-e1585919482943.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]by Emma Givens (Intrepid Emma)[/author_info] [/author]

 

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About the Author

Emma Givens

Emma Givens is the Founder and CEO of EG: Content & Copy. She’s a brand messaging strategist, copywriter and writing coach with 10+ years of experience. She specializes in serving premium SMBs (Small and Medium-sized Businesses).

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