There’s something about a blank document that is inherently intimidating. You have a desire to write something, but staring at the overwhelming white make the ideas stop. No, not writer’s block, but something worse.
When I was little, I would always start writing in a new notebook in the middle, or on the second page, or even in the back, just because it was easier to fill than the first page. And don’t get me started on unlined notebooks. Those were somehow untouchable. It was as if I didn’t want to sully the pages with something unworthy.
Well, that kind of thinking had to stop. Now, it is much easier to stick my foot in my mouth and keep on going, no matter what kind of drivel pops out. Sometimes I’ll look back and find a nugget of wisdom in the value meal that is my stream of thought.
As Cheri, numerous other writers, and I have said, you can only improve by practicing and keep on keeping on. In all cases, this starts with a blank page.
So what do you do when faced with the overwhelmingly bright blankness that is a new word document or a fresh notebook?
Well, I’ve found that prompts and writing contests are were the way to go for me.
Once I have an idea, it is easy to start the flow of words, but the ideas were hard to come by in the beginning. Faced with the blank page and the feeling of overwhelming inadequacy of any passing ideas of stories, I stared for long periods of time at my computer screen, eventually throwing the towel in and distracting myself from the feeling of incompetence by doing other things.
You can guess how much my writing improved during that period. Back to the prompts. I eventually found sites and contests which were thrown for fun by writers. Each contest would have a theme or an idea that had to be included in the story.
In the beginning, it was great! I thought of stories and wrote and wrote and wrote and lost. I lost a lot. This gave me a place to start. I had a deadline and I had a story, so now I was forced to write (and edit. Which was much harder for me because I went through my entire high school and college careers believing that first drafts were the best drafts.)
And what’s more, it forced me to focus my writing so that I could fill the different prompts and rules. I got much better at formulating and planning out a story within the guidelines. I am able to estimate how many words parts of the story will take (not very accurately sometimes).
Contests and prompts definitely helped me start writing, but what keeps me writing is the desire to write — the idea that I had a story to tell that no one else did. And that’s actually why I started writing in the first place. The joy when someone reads and appreciates your work is unbeatable and it was something that only you could do. And that’s how you should fill a blank document, and more to the point, why you should attempt it in the first place.
How do you fill a blank document? Let us know in the comments below and Cheri will be back soon with more angst about life while reading the Divergent trilogy.