The Empty Page

The dreaded empty page

It stares at you, mocking, laughing, taunting.  It’s not a pleasant part of the writing experience but the empty page faces everyone.  When I write in my notepad, it’s sometimes easiest to doodle some pictures on the page to make it look less empty.

It’s not quite so easy to doodle on a Word document.  You write and write and write, but that dreaded blank page is just a delete button away.  The page can come back at any time.  At least with pen and paper there is always evidence of work!

So how do you start? 

Well that depends if you have an idea of what to write – if you do it’s almost always better to get something – anything (!) down on paper.  Writing helps formulate the idea and you can rewrite as many times as you need. 

If you have no idea what to write….hmm.   That’s when the page gets bigger and starts laughing at you.  You’ve made yourself six cups of coffee, sharpened all your pencils, put your shelves in alphabetical order and still nothing.  I have found a couple of things really helpful beyond going for a long walk!

  1. Go to a crowded bar or sit on the train and eavesdrop on a conversation or two. Pick up a random line of conversation and create a story around it. I find it a great way to pick up ideas.
  2. I have a new app-toy that I’m playing with at the moment which I love! It’s called Writing Challenge and it’s such a simple idea. Basically the app gives you a starting story line eg. “Start Writing a Story that….begins with this sentence: He put it inside the envelope.”  You press accept or change until you find one that you are happy with and then you have 1 minute to continue the story.  After a minute you choose another one and so on and build up your story from there.  It’s not so much about writing beautifully but it’s more about just writing.  It’s a great thing to do on a daily basis and gives you ideas that you wouldn’t necessarily come up with yourself.  I do it while dinner is cooking so my session probably only lasts for about 15 -20 minutes but that’s 15-20 minutes that I wasn’t doing before!  It’s also brilliant for teaching you not to be too pedantic about checking your work – just get writing.  You can check later…

Here is a small example of what I wrote on my first outing:

All four were silent.  Nothing had happened for 2 hours and still they waited.  The trains had been delayed since 6am to Bedford but they waited expectantly for the 6.27 train.  It was now 9.56.  There was a lot of tutting and sighing.  The rational thing to do would be to take the rail replacement service but there was always the hope that the train might turn up and take 2 hours less than the bus.  They all wanted to leave as soon as possible and so they waited.  And waited.  And waited.  The first sat on the platform with oversized suitcase , bearing the words Worlds Greatest Magician.  He wore coat and top hat as if it were the most comfortable clothing in the world.  The second looked like a hopeless fellow.  Shabby clothes, patches, 5 day stubble and an air of vodka around him.  He muttered to himself under his breath “She’s gone….she’s gone” and his voice came out like a hiss.  The third man was wearing a business suit and carried an umbrella and a newspaper.  He looked normal but he didn’t have a nice face.  He looked down on his surroundings and his fellow travellers.  He put on his hat and shifted his newspaper to the other armpit.  He stood up and walked two steps to the platform edge glared at the track in both directions and walked the two steps to sit down again. 

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” — Mark Twain

And a no nonsense quote from Philip Pullman saying to just get on with it!

Writer’s block is a condition that affects amateurs and people who aren’t serious about writing. So is the opposite, namely inspiration, which amateurs are also very fond of. Putting it another way: a professional writer is someone who writes just as well when they’re not inspired as when they are.” — Philip Pullman

Leave a Reply