Every writer has their hangups. Usually it’s a part of the writing process they just can’t seem to get a good handle on no matter how hard they try.
For some people, for example, starting a book is the easy part. What they struggle with more than anything is actually following through and finishing that book.
Others struggle even to come up with an idea for a story, desperate to create something but unable to nail down exactly what they want to write about.
And many, as I have learned in engaging with other writers who read this blog, find starting to be the hardest part of creating. They have an idea. They know where their finish line is. But they open a new document and stare at that blank page, and boom. They’re stuck. They know they need to put their ideas into words, but for whatever reason, they just can’t do it.
In case you hadn’t already figured it out, this is why Novelty Revisions exists — to help writers get from point “I want to write something cool” to “I wrote a cool thing!”
Writing is hard. It never gets easier, because we all have at least one struggle we have to continuously work at overcoming. It doesn’t mean we’re weak. It simply means we’re human.
Have an idea? Great. But what are you going to do with that idea? Let it sit around without giving it the chance to develop and grow? I sincerely hope not.
It’s all about putting that idea into words. Not just about having a good idea or knowing where you want that idea to end up, but about actually sitting down in front of a blank page and filling it with words.
Why is this part of the process such a challenge for so many writers? It’s partially because we’re impatient. We are so excited to “have written” a story that we find ourselves disappointed when we realize the story won’t actually write itself. We want it already done. We almost forget that writing is an active verb, in the sense that in order to make it past tense, we have to put in effort in the present.
We’re also preoccupied with all the other things that fill our lives. We don’t like the idea that we could spend a week writing a story and then another month rewriting and revising it. We crave the one-and-done projects, which we want very desperately to believe exist in the creative world. (They don’t.) We want what we write to be flawless the first time around so we can put it aside and move on to other things. But we’re also aware that isn’t usually possible, and that makes a blank page look and feel extremely intimidating.
So what’s the solution here? You’re probably hoping there’s some magic ingredient you can add to your coffee before you sit down to write that will make this mental block disappear. I’m not one to condone any illegal substances, so the solution I have to offer is actually going to take some effort. Are you ready?
Train yourself to stop being afraid.
You’re stuck on this blank page because you want the hard part to be over with. You don’t want to face the possibility that you might fail, that all your work might end up being “all for nothing.” But the truth is, the only way to turn that blank page into a story is to take a deep breath, think about where you want to end up, and begin.
It’s hard. It’s always going to be hard. I am never, ever satisfied with the first lines of anything I write during a first draft, and I’ve been doing this for over a decade. I always want to do it over and over until it feels right. But it never will — not until you’ve given yourself more material to work with.
A blank page is, quite literally, only the beginning. You have to do the work. At the very least, you have to try.
Don’t fear the blank page. Face it. Embrace it. Treat it as a challenge — not one that’s going to crush you, but instead one that’s going to teach you and build you up and help you grow.
It’s not as scary as it looks. Not once you get in there and start writing.
Every writer starts here. You’ve only just begun.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.