The Fear of the Blank Page
We need to put words to paper, but they will not come. The blank page intimidates us. The objects in the room call, our eyes wander, and our mind runs to places that are more desirable. We struggle to come back to the page with pen in hand. In the meantime, the white space has grown in intensity, until it is blinding.
Writer’s block is a common foe of even experienced writers. To the novice, the problem becomes a taunt and we subsequently begin to despise the activity of writing. We cannot bear to face our inadequacies again and we resist, protecting our psyche.
We must never forget that writing is a creative activity that springs from an inner well. If the well is dry, then we cannot be creative. Either we do something else or we find a way to kick-start the engine of creativity, so the wheels can run again.
Ideally, we learn strategies to help us deal with these occasions of writer’s block, when the words will not come. As deadlines loom, our anxieties escalate until they take over. Let us discuss how we can overcome this problem.
Release the Pressure
Sometimes the problem is that we are trying too hard. We need separation from the chair. Lay down the pen, close down the computer and get some air.
When we have an issue that is weighing on our mind, we turn it around and around and become increasingly tense, by the moment. It consumes us and our mind becomes overwhelmed by stress.
Only by stepping away and releasing the pressure, can we find a way for the pump to work properly. When we take the time to relax, our minds continue to work in the background. Accordingly, our mental acuity returns and we can work again.
When we strangle our ideas in the pursuit of perfection, they cannot breathe. They need to find release, so they can come back to life. Once they are liberated, they can squirm around and grow in vigor and vitality. Then, they are ready for the page.
We have to realize that our thoughts and ideas are like newborns. Babies cannot handle the complexities of adulthood and no one expects that of them. We allow them to be what they are.
First draft thoughts are the equivalent of newborns. We get them on paper. We allow them to be born, messy and weak. We clean them up, train them and teach them the ways of life.
In writing, we pour our unformed words onto the page, as best we can. It does not matter how unruly they are. As we do subsequent drafts, they move to adulthood. Allow them to make the journey and to have their childhood. There is time enough for maturity. Let them have life.
Plan the Piece
By liberating our thoughts from the pursuit of perfection, we free the ideas to mature. We do that by writing them down and shaping them. Like a raw athlete or musician, we take their natural abilities and remove all of the clutter until they are at an optimum level.
Pour the raw thoughts onto paper, in all of their randomness. Once they are there, rest, allow the well to cool down before seeing what is in the bucket. What remains produces the final product, once sweat and labor are applied.
Once written, the writer rearranges the ideas until they begin to resemble something recognizable. Ideas are volatile creatures with the boundless energy of children. Allow these children to explore and instruct as necessary.
Ideas, once liberated and allowed freedom, take flight and go to new lands. Planning allows this rambunctiousness and harnesses its energy until it becomes a vigorous adult.
Prime the Pump
When our children are young and naïve, we teach them discretion and discernment, until they know what is good and healthy. This wisdom allows them to take the right paths in life.
As our ideas take shape, we prime the pump by filling our well with ideas. Reading and listening allows us this privilege. I have said before that a writer who will not read is a writer who will not be read. He will not have the requisite knowledge to keep the reader’s attention.
If we do not fill our well with knowledge, we cannot hope to see our ideas mature. They become developmentally disabled. They need an infusion of maturity and knowledge, so they can develop a larger array of tools. Trying to fell a tree with a dull ax will be a frustrating experience.
On the other hand, if the youngster is healthy and muscled, he can do the heavy lifting. Likewise, if our well is full, we do not need a bucket, because the water will be brimming to the top. We can simply scoop it up by the handfuls.
Likewise, we must fill our wells with pertinent knowledge. However, do not allow detritus to disguise itself as substance. Read the best, grow, strengthen the mind and writer’s block will dissipate. We will not be able to put the ideas to paper fast enough.
Therefore, prime the pump, the page is thirsty.
Writer’s block can be defeated, if we will take these steps and find the way to unleash our ideas, so they can run free.