Embracing the Blank Page – Welcome to the New Adventure that Awaits with Every Blank White Page

I have heard that some writers are afraid of the blank page. If you are one of them, I’d like to introduce you to a new game that may hopefully help you leap over that hurdle.

Say hello to “What if…”

The blank page is my favorite thing about writing. The same way I look at a fresh layer of snow over everything and immediately want to dash out and run through, making tracks all over it, I love to send a hurried frenzy of words or scribbles all over a fresh page. There is nothing better than a crisp page of paper that has never been written on before. I try to be environmentally conscious, so of course I will write on the back of the page too, but it’s not nearly as good as that brand new piece of paper.

The screen is the same way. With a blank screen, you can go anywhere, do anything, watch the lovely words fill up the page, hopping here and there as you see the word count climb and paragraph after paragraph build the marvelous shape the page will take.

Okay. I get it. Not for you. But, since a glorious blank page is such a joy, I simply must share part of the “why.”

It comes back to the “what if” again. With a blank page, you can go anywhere, do anything, make anything, anyone happen, march, sing, dance, whatever. This is probably part of why I love writing the beginning of a new story or novel, because there are no constraints beyond my own imagination and that of the language.

“Oh, sure, a first page is one thing, but what about chapter 22? Or the rest of the middling sort? They’re hard! The blank page mocks me. There is no freedom. I have to conform to the plot. Everything that has come before determines everything that will happen after!”

You sure about that? Why? Who says? No, perhaps you don’t actually want to introduce an alien into the middle of your Regency romance (although that does sound curiously intriguing, doesn’t it?). But, who says you can’t surprise your readers a little bit? Who says you can’t surprise even yourself?

Here’s the fun of “what if”. Start playing. What if your character suddenly becomes ill? What if something hilariously humiliating happens to one of your protagonists? What if a character suddenly dies? Is murdered? “What if” is endless. Let yourself play. Let yourself consider all the what-ifs – I have heard you should list at least up to 20 – without constraint, without rejection. If you think it, you must add it to your list. Indeed, as you weary of the game or solutions seem in short supply, some of them may be ludicrous. (What if an alien ship suddenly touches down in the middle of the ball, the aliens get out, zap everyone, and the heroine is turned into a toad?). But, amongst that craziness, there’s something wonderful lurking: possibility.

The possibility of surprising your readers, surprising yourself, coming upon something exciting and new which is so much fresher, more unique, and more interesting than what you’d considered before. Perhaps the problem originally was merely that it bored even you, which is why the blank page mocked you. If it bored even you, the author, do you really think it will enthrall your readers?

By all means, plot if that’s what works for you. But don’t let the constraints of that initial plotting hold you back. Run forth, dare something interesting, have fun and play with “what if.” Even if writing is a calling, a career, is supposed to require dedication and hard work, nothing says it shouldn’t still be fun sometimes, because it should.

“What if” is writing joy. Embrace it, and embrace the blank page.

Come on! Back to work! That blank page is calling, so embrace it, play with it, and see where it will take you this time.






5 responses to “Embracing the Blank Page – Welcome to the New Adventure that Awaits with Every Blank White Page”

  1. Jami Gold Avatar

    Great post. I love the imagery *and* your reasons for loving it. I’m the same way. I love the possibilities and potential of a blank page/screen.

    1. Shelly Avatar

      Thanks for the comment, Jami. Yep, I’m all for the blank page – even when it starts to get a bit more prickly and less-embraceable about mid-book. 🙂

  2. Lakendra Venturini Avatar

    Amazing blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally confused .. Any tips? Thank you!

    1. Shelly Avatar

      Thank you very much, Lakendra, and my apologies for the late reply. It is a great idea to establish a web presence as an aspiring author, and there are a lot of different views about how / when / why / if you should do it. Eventually you’ll probably want to have your own domain name which you’ll pay for, but up to that point, a free website (like through something like WordPress) works fine, and some authors stick with this for some time. I’ve attached a link to a fellow author who has tips specifically on website building for writers. Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget that in becoming a writer, the most important thing is to keep writing, and sometimes website development, marketing, social media, etc, can distract (and therefore detract) from one’s writing, so yes, get your name out there, by all means get a website going, but keep writing! 🙂 If you have further questions, feel free to contact me through the contact page or other comments and I’ll try to get back to them a bit sooner. Hope this helps.
      The link to Five Things Novelists Should Do When Writing for the Web

  3. Elinore Artiles Avatar

    Appreciating the commitment you put into your blog and in depth information you provide. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed material. Great read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.