Oh, hey! I didn’t see you there. Come on in, and welcome to Write Full Circle’s first post, the kick-off for my new project dedicated to exploring the writing craft.
Embarking on a new journey is usually an energizing experience, but oftentimes it’s accompanied by a certain amount of anxiety, as well. Engaged couples get cold feet. Actors suffer from stagefright. And writers become afflicted with Blank Page Syndrome, a form of writer’s block that happens right when they sit down to start something new and suddenly freeze.
For me, it begins when I open up my word processor and get a good look at the white sea that is the canvas for whatever project I am set to tackle. A tightness in my gut works its way up my chest, through my arms, and down into my fingers, paralyzing them over the keyboard as the whitespace fails to fill up and the cursor continues to blink at me, slowly, almost mockingly.
Whether it’s due to a fear of failure, a lack of enthusiasm for a thing we’re obligated to write, or simply the daunting prospect of starting a new project from scratch, with absolutely no guarantee (or so we think) that it will turn out the way we want, Blank Page Syndrome continues to rear it’s ugly, prose-quashing head for me, and I bet it does for you, too. For Write Full Circle’s inaugural post, I want to share a few things to remember the next time you’re struggling with this problem.
If a goal does not exist, it is necessary to invent one
Dubious paraphrasing of Voltaire aside, let’s face it: Blank Page Syndrome is really just another form of procrastination. For a long time I resisted the idea of self-imposed deadlines or daily writing goals, even though it’s a recommended tactic for battling the urge to delay working on a task. Who wants to be pressured while doing something “for fun,” right?
Well, I’ll be the first to say that I was wrong.
In exchange for a bit of added pressure, the rewards of improved productivity and satisfaction with my work have been immense. The key is to start small, with deadlines or goals that are achievable in a short period of time, say 360 words in 1 hour (hello, blog-name reference!). If you’re writing fiction, you could start with a single short scene that you want to work on, and not stop until you’ve finished the first draft of that scene. Different methods work for different people, but if you’re dissatisfied with your productivity, making yourself stick to some type of goal can truly make a difference.
The only way to lose is not to play
The blank page only wins if you let fear stop you from writing the story you want (or need) to tell. Although I reserve the right to make exceptions to this rule, I believe that the only thing worse than a story told badly (or just a plain ol’ bad story) is a story that never gets told at all. Sure, when all is said and done, that book about a gawky, telekinesis-wielding teen may suck harder than a Hoover-brand black hole, but it might also end up being kinda successful.
In most cases, I’d rather something exist and turn out to be awful than remain stranded forever in the Land of the Lost (Ideas).
You can’t solve a jigsaw puzzle if it’s still in the box
When I first started writing, I tried to make sure that whatever story I wanted to tell would be a winner from word one, thinking I could save myself time with fewer rewrites. Guess how far I got with that plan?
That’s an exaggeration, of course, but the fact is that writing is a lot like solving a jigsaw puzzle: there’s just no way to know how it fits together until all the pieces are out on the table and turned face-up.
This analogy occurred to me at some point after writing enough work for Adventure Gamers, where we have the freedom to organize the content of our articles in the way that seems best for a particular assignment (pending final approval from our editor-in-chief, of course). When I first started, I would often write and edit my work at the same time. While this approach isn’t too detrimental for short pieces, it’s not ideal, and for anything over a certain length there’s simply too many pieces to pull them out of the box a few at a time, expecting everything to fit together perfectly, one after the other.
There’re few feelings as uncomfortable for a writer as being frozen, unable to bring their thoughts out onto the page. Remember, though, that most of us have been there at one time or another. It’s simply part of the writer’s journey, but so is learning to conquer it. Keeping these tips in mind the next time you find yourself staring at a blank screen may be just the help you need to banish Blank Page Syndrome the next time you start a new project.
Until next time,
Remember to Write Full Circle every day.