The blank page is a damn nightmare.
The writers of the ages have feared it more than evil spirits, wasting disease and visiting in-laws.
Yet, if you want something to happen, you’ve got to spill the ink on that thing.
You’ve got to do it every day.
Like a detective, the writer is always digging.
And when that digging unearths ideas, the writer is desperate for a way to get them down.
The pain of facing a blank page is cured by facing what you’re not doing.
And what you’re not doing, is making three simple moves to correct this ancient problem.
You’re not researching
Did you think you could pull good writing out of a cloudy sky?
It doesn’t work that way.
You’ve got to know what you’re talking about in order to get it down well. The only way to do that is to read, listen, dig, watch, and think.
The old-school guys subscribed to and read every newspaper and magazine around. They had bulging libraries.
You have the internet.
You’re not outlining
If you’re thinking about those roman numerals and endless lower-case alphabetical hierarchies, you’re thinking outlining is a chore.
Don’t do it.
A simple list of core ideas is more than enough for most of your writing process.
The goal here is to give yourself a simple map, so that your mind is free to roam within it.
Constraint is a secret of creativity.
You’re not living
Every mill needs grist.
Conversations with friends, arguments with family, long walks, stuck in traffic, lazy meals and fast drinks. It all goes into the vault, and is ultimately spent on the page.
Good experiences and bad, it all works for you.
In fact, the bad can be particularly useful. Novelist Philip Roth famously said:
Nothing bad can happen to a writer. Everything is material.
If you’re not living, you’re not writing.
How to lust after the blank page again
I got it wrong up there, at the top of this formerly blank page.
The blank page is not a nightmare. Or, at least, it doesn’t have to be.
It is a humble companion that daily demands sacrifice, commitment, and integrity. It’s doing you a favor.
You’ll fail more than you succeed, but like anything worth doing, you get up, continue, and seek your reward — which is in the practice of the craft.
The blank page is calling you to greatness.
What’s your answer?
About the Author: Robert Bruce is Copyblogger Media’s Chief Copywriter and Resident Recluse.