How to Beat the Blank Page and Write

We’ve all been there.

You sit down after a long day. You’re tired, but you made it. Your kids are at a sitter, or your dishes are getting ignored in the sink, or you’ve finally gotten off social media. You’re ready to write.

And then: nothing. Absolutely nothing. All of those brilliant ideas for your manuscript, blog post, article, or what-have-you are gone.

The screen is blank.

You glance at the clock. You’re down to fifty minutes of precious writing time before you have to get on to the next task, because you write in the margins. You don’t have the luxury of trying to wait for the muse. You have to get content onto paper NOW.

All of those thoughts only make you freeze up more. You decide to go on a walk. All you feel is relief that you’re away from your computer. Divine inspiration? Not there.

What about online writing gurus and experts? Surely they have an idea? You hop online just for a second, just to scroll through a few blogs and websites of successful writing experts and authors.

Man, these people look way more put-together than you. Look at those shiny websites! Even their posts look awesome. And who did those book covers? Yikes! How are they that famous that quickly? Is this normal? What are you even doing?

Maybe you’re not cut out for this. The doubts churn in your stomach.

Thirty minutes gone. What? No. How did time go so fast? This is not fair. Okay, focus. Gotta get this done. Otherwise, you won’t have any time until tomorrow. Professionals work best under deadlines, right? And you’re a professional. You’re making time. You’re doing things the right way.

The blank screen still looms large. You have nothing.

Maybe you are nothing. What’s the point? Clearly, others are doing this all the time. Let them do it. You can binge watch TV or scroll Pinterest.

What does it matter anyway?

I’ve been there. As one of those crazy writing-in-the-margins types, I know what it feels like to scrape away at that time, while wondering if it’s worth it. To fight for those hours and minutes and hope they add up to something meaningful to put out there to readers.

Good news: they do!
Bad news: only if you get actual words on the page.

And we’re back to that grand question of: HOW?

 

how to beat the blank page and write

 

1.) Remember your push
Write down the reasons Why YOU write, why your words matter, where you came from, what’s your story. Have these reason sticky-noted on your computer desktop. Get some writing partners who are there just to encourage you to keep going. Much is made of critique partners, but I’m a personal fan of the writing cheerleaders for the drafting process. Sometimes you don’t need feedback. You just need someone who believes in you, no matter what.

2.) Allow yourself to relax
Put on some music. Give yourself a little time to scroll your favorite Pinterest boards or research some new concepts. It isn’t wasting time, especially if that research is fueling your thoughts. Better fifteen minutes of solid writing than an hour of trying to stare at the screen without inspiration.

3.) Let your mind wander
Daydreaming is underrated. Humans are not, in fact, content machines. Eventually, we all give out. Take a bit of time to pray. Meditate. Breathe deeply. Do whatever you need to center yourself and clear out any issues from the day. If you’re having to write at a public place, put in earbuds to make your own inner space.

4.) Chase some plot bunnies
Got an idea you just GOTTA explore, but it isn’t on topic, but you just can’t stop thinking about it? Take 5-10 minutes and write it out to clear your brain. This isn’t wasting time. This is helping you to focus. Enjoy. Let yourself have fun and expand your creativity!

5.) Manage your environment
Earbuds are your friend. So is your favorite beverage or treat. Do whatever you need to get yourself in the mood, even if it feels weird or people don’t ‘get it.’ I tend to get bored with one location, so in college I was the Migratory Studier. I used to study one subject in the library, another subject in a friend’s dorm room, and a third subject in the girl’s bathroom in the student center (they had the comfiest couch there). Yeah, it was odd, but it worked for me, and it wasn’t making anyone else’s life difficult (actually got into some fun conversations in the bathroom).

6.) Accept that your process is different from everyone else’s
Process-development is discussed more in the visual arts field, but we writers need it just as much to free us from the pressure of perfection. You will never write exactly like your favorite writing expert. And you don’t have to. Even if it seems like they are succeeding out the wazoo, and if you just listen to their every thought and follow their every step, your life will get better. Learn what works for you, develop it more, take bits and pieces from others, and never be afraid to say “you know what, that method might have made you write five best-sellers, but it doesn’t work for me. And that’s okay, because we’re different people who have different brains and lifestyles. I will keep trying until I figure out me and make it work.”

7.) Accept that your work won’t be perfect
Stay away from books or blog posts or articles that make you insecure about your own writing. The authors wrote those books, blog posts, and articles, edited them, and proofread them. Trying to compare your drafting to their finished, polished work is comparing a mixing bowl of brownie batter to a fully-baked pan of brownies.
And give yourself some credit. Call in cheerleaders to point out where your drafting is excelling. Because brownie batter can taste darn delicious by itself.

8.) Give yourself a day off. Yes, I mean it.
Consistency is celebrated in the writing and content-creation community. But seriously. People get sick. Life happens. Yes, if you have a deadline, you gotta buckle down and meet it. But days of rest are necessary for health and wellness. Better you take some time off, recharge, and deal with life than continue forcing yourself to try and create when It. Isn’t. Working. The world will not end. The internet won’t go anywhere (unless the zombie apocalypse happens, and then you have other problems to deal with). And you will be far more refreshed and ready to go. Concerned you won’t go back to writing? Call on your cheerleaders to hold you accountable and remember your Push.

Beating the blank page and writing can be a daily battle (or an every-other-day battle, or a weekend battle–call it a “whenever-you-have-time” battle!). But winning that battle is 100% worth it, because you are getting words out, having fun, and moving forward. And every step is worth it!

I love learning more about you! What’s an important part of your writing process? Got any other recommendations for solving Blank Screen Syndrome? Share in the comments!

Why Your Writing Matters (Even If You’re Not Famous)

Once, there was a teenage girl who wrote for hours a day, yet knew she would never be a writer. Writing was for dreamers who couldn’t pay off their student loans and sat around all day in fantasy worlds. No, this girl had her head on straight and was going into a solid science or medical field. Even though she failed at math and spent her classes pondering plot holes and new content writing. She could come down to earth, put language arts aside, and make the sensible choice.

Considering that I’ve now been writing, coaching, teaching, and editing English for over a decade, we can see how well that turned out. 😉

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Keep running the race!

Writing is a hard field. Never let anyone tell you any differently. But while it has unique challenges, it isn’t any harder or easier than many other career choices. It takes guts and passion and drive. It takes focused creativity when you’re ready to quit and the ability to see new possibilities and opportunities–or even to create them. It isn’t for the faint of heart, although sometimes the hours part-time writers have to keep can make you literally faint.

A quote from a favorite childhood book:

“She was not as stupid as some I have had, and better company, but still perhaps her going was for the best. She was not what I needed.”

“Because I failed,” whispered Alyce in the shadows.

“Because she gave up,” continued the midwife. “I need an apprentice who can do what I tell her, take what I give her, who can try and risk and fail and try again and not give up…”

Karen Cushman, The Midwife’s Apprentice

Writing is art, but succeeding in it is also requires business smarts and critical analysis. It requires personal reflection and outward engagement. It challenges introverts to get out of their shells and extroverts to focus on the sound of their own heartbeats as they labor away at keyboards. It can be a part-time hobby or a full-time obsession, and sometimes neither of those will offer a whit of monetary reward or personal affirmation. At times, you may need to take a break and take a breath or twenty. Recharged your batteries. Sleep.

And yet, you go back. Because you get to create marvelous things out of nothing. Whether you’re writing a business statement or a short story or a blog post, it literally doesn’t exist until you get your brain in gear, say a final prayer, take a deep breath, and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. As an editor, you can walk hand in hand with a creator, delving deeply into their worlds and then getting the satisfaction of seeing those worlds touch hearts and minds as they are released into the outside world.

As a reader, I thank you for all of your effort in every endeavor.

Writing is one of the greatest gifts you can give others, and the ability to write has been one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.

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Here is my toast to you, readers and writers! With extra protein!

Thank you, bloggers and followers and readers, for allowing me into your lives with what writing advice and snarky thoughts as I have. I’m humbled to get to serve you in this way, and I’m excited for what the future holds!

Keep writing (and reading) inside out, enjoying every step of the journey!

And while you’re at it, I’m keenly interested in how I can serve you better. I’ve expanded to two websites: Janeen Ippolito (Monsters, Misfits, and Mushy Stuff) for fiction and book reviews and Write Inside Out for writing and world-building help with unique insights. I’m working on shifting over content as necessary–so if you’re worried about book reviews disappearing, never fear! They’re just relocating. 🙂

As I expand Write Inside Out to be an even more epic writing haven, I have a ton of cool ideas, including series on world-building to increase readership marketability, using taboo topics in world-building (sex, drugs, death, and yes, taxes), and a series on world-building by the subgenre. Please vote in the poll below and let me know what you want to know more about! You’re welcome to vote for more than one thing.

Laughing at Failure

Writing is a joke. At least for me. And I’m not talking about the humor part.

See, I’m an anti-stupidist. It’s a sub-type of perfectionist.

Anti-stupidist: noun.1. person who has a strong aversion to appearing stupid or ignorant. ( Tweet This ) Variation, verb: Anti-stupiding. 2. Person who viciously criticizes and edits their own work so as to avoid appearing stupid, and then throws it away anyway.

Pride and insecurity. They go together like peanut butter and pickles. And like peanut butter and pickles, they often don’t sit well in the stomach.

What’s the antidote?

I realize that everyone messes up, we all fall short, and so I really don’t have any pride worth holding onto. True self-worth cannot be based on my accomplishments and I should be the first to serve others and listen to them, instead of demanding the podium.

And when I have the podium? Sometimes, I’ll fall off it. Because podiums are not very sturdy, really.

Everyone makes mistakes. All of us have done things like leaving the hose on overnight to leak into the lawn, or walking confidently towards a car, only to find it belongs to someone else. A someone else who is glaring suspiciously. Whoops!

Bottom line? Work hard, do your best, and understand that life won’t be easy. There’s a time for tears and a time for joy.

And when the stupid comes? Try to laugh at it. ( Tweet This Quote )

I’m working towards recovery of my anti-stupidism. I’m going to offer an email list soon, with more humor, story snippets, writing tips, and worldview inspiration. I’m also working on a series of videos, because as a teacher, I’m actually pretty comfortable working in that medium to reach out and help others.

Theoretically. I’m saying this after making and tossing fifteen videos, trying to go for the perfect angle. Because practice makes perfect. And more practice?

Makes you want to throw the digital camera out the window.

Hey, I’m not recovered yet. 😉

Any other anti-stupidists out there–or regular perfectionists? Other sub types?