The blank page can be as terrifying to an aspiring author as an audience is to a novice speaker. A blank page is like a waiting audience – you can't see them, but you know they're there. As you stare a the white, empty page, you start to imagine the derision of your invisible audience.
Most public speakers have some notes to help them – they have already overcome the blank page – but as a writer you have only your ingenuity to save you.
If you find the blank page keeps you stuck, try these five tricks to get you going with your writing so you can ward off page fright. In using these strategies, remember that the words you write are less important than the act of simply getting words on the page. In doing so, you will relieve tension, zap the panic and free up your mind to start thinking. And as soon as you start to think you will be able to start to write.
- Copy a quote or the words of another writer onto the page. If you choose a piece of text that is relevant to what you want to write about it will stimulate you to think and so to write. You’ll find it difficult to resist having thoughts when you read someone else’s words. Once your thoughts start flowing, so will your words. When the page is no longer blank, your mind is no longer blank.
- Copy and paste something else you have written about your topic onto the page. Read the last sentence and simply add to it. No more blank page or empty mind.
- Write down 3 questions about your topic and start writing answers. Questions are irresistible. Have you ever tried to ignore a question? It’s actually quite difficult, especially if you know the answer. We are hard-wired to help if we hear someone ask a question. Even if we’re on a train and we overhear a conversion we often feel compelled to give others the benefit of our wisdom. So, ask yourself questions and you’ll soon find your ideas tripping over themselves to get out onto the page. And, yes, it won’t be blank any more.
- Free-write – in other words write whatever comes into your head without criticising or editing it. If you can’t get going, just put “blah blah blah blah blah, I don’t know what to write. I can’t think of anything to say…” and suddenly, you’ll find ideas popping into your head and you’ll be off and away. The blank page is banished.
- Finally, just write a few headings on the page. Preferably, those headings need to be related to your topic but it doesn’t matter if they aren’t. The important thing is to begin to write. If you can’t think of any good headings, just make a bald statement. For example: ‘The world is round’ or “Roses are not always scented”. What you write is less important than the fact that you have started to write. Making a statement about something will naturally bring up the counter-argument in your head. Your brain starts whirring, your fingers start typing (or handwriting) and suddenly, you are writing about your topic. Result!
Once you free your mind from the fetters of fear or any other kind of negative thought or feeling you will find that the words start to flow. The next time the blank page leaves you feeling blank, use one of these little tricks to get yourself going. You’ll be surprised how much you have to say!
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