Approaching the Blank Page

blank page“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair…the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick [butt] and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.” –Stephen King

Very little separates Stephen King and me. And, by very little, I mean about 3,000 miles, $3 billion, and about 300 million books sold. But I’d like to think that, in context of writing philosophies, we’re really on the same page. It’d be a little pompous of me to try to add to what King has to say, but if I might, I’d like to give my take on it.

There’s a profound sense of respect we must have when we come to writing. This respect doesn’t mean we’ll immediately be successful, but it ensures that we’re willing to stick with the process. You’re keenly aware that, in the battle of blank page vs. would-be writer, the page is the odds-on favorite. But, in the battle of blank page vs. Stephen King, who wouldn’t take the King? He’s proven himself. He’s come to the blank page countless time, and never underestimated it.

Here’s what I mean by underestimating the blank page: If we approach it lightly, as King warns us not to, we’re very likely never to finish. There are few things harder than filling white space with intelligible words. Even harder to fill them with words that inspire love, or fear, or envy, or loathing, or relief, or comedy, or joy, or satisfaction, or respect.

Come to the blank page without a healthy respect for it, and it will pummel you in less than a month. Understand this: the fight is not one that is resolved in an afternoon. The battle that will see several twists and turns, will be fought on several different terrains, with several different heroes, with several different risks, with several triumphs and defeats.

To come to it lightly is to hand the blank page an early victory. So clench your fists, narrow your eyes, roll up your sleeves, do whatever it takes to declare your unwavering allegiance to finishing what you begin.

10 Comments on Approaching the Blank Page

  1. I often come across this more then I should. I would always starts something id never finish it. Most times the paper would mess with me. Scenes would drag on for more then they needed to. So if you don’t “dominate” the paper. It wacks you back right in the face and it comes out as an epic fail.

  2. I can never finish anything I start writing and it gets so frustrating. I hope this will help with my writing (fingers crossed).

  3. Aubrie Vasquez | October 26, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Reply

    Yeah, I’m best friends with the blank page. I often have something that sounds so epic in my head and I write on paper and give it to others to read or I read it and it’s missing something. One thing I do wrong is I set it down and go back to it, so whenever I try evoke the same mood it doesn’t come out right. But how do you know if it’s enough to give the okay to set it down, or how many times to polish it when your done?

  4. I haven’t met a person that hasn’t had a battle with the infinite blank page. I most likely came across it more than I can count. Sitting there for who knows how many hours, getting frustrated on what to write. I actually had one of those battle’s a few moments ago. Most people don’t know, but there is a way out of the battle with victory. All you need to do is shut off your brain. Don’t think. Don’t move. Don’t even blink. I know it sounds silly (crazy), but hey it works. Just make sure you turn it back on, or you can definitely say goodby to victory.

  5. Kaitlin Perryman | October 27, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Reply

    I hate when this happens. I always seem to have a good idea but it doesn’t come out on the paper how I would like it to or just doesn’t sound right. Sometimes I just can’t find the right words. The ideas in my head but writing it is harder than it sounds. I’m actually having this problem right now trying to do the 3×5 cards. Hopefully when I go back to doing it this will have helped.

  6. The blank page is my old nemesis. In fact, it’s staring at me right now in another window. It’s a little scary, but I’ve faced it before. And I intend to win.
    If you need to conjure certain emotions to beat that blank page, just close your eyes and breathe. Think of something that happened to you to make you feel that way. Think of a scene from a movie or a game. Think about the lyrics to a song and get in the zone.
    Don’t think, just write. You can proofread and edit later. Let the words flow out of you regardless of whether they’re right. Before you know it, that blank page will be drowning in words. Congratulations–you just won.

  7. It happens to me sometimes where I write a story and end up not finishing it. However, if i feel a strong emotion such as sadness or whatever it may be, I end up writing better than I imagined and it gets finished. Sometimes I even end up writing the story for hours and hours nonstop if I see that it’s coming very well. Every time I write, new thoughts come into mind to makes it more interesting and that is what makes me continue writing more. The battles that I came to when writing is how I should put what I’m thinking into words. It’s not easy sometimes and I have bit of trouble with that here and there but I try to fight the blank paper to make it filled with words.

  8. Jonathan Calzada | October 31, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Reply

    it’s like wanting to say something so bad, but it won’t come out. The blank page just sits there laughing at you, then you think you got it…..al you have is the word “The”. So many rewrites, so many edits so much frustration. The good thing is everyone conquers it sooner or later

  9. Staring at a blank page before you can be quite frustrating since you know what to write yet you cant find the words. Yet once you have something written down on your paper you feel unsatisfied with what you have so far. Then you have to begin again with the blank page. It might take a while to get a good idea in your mind to write about, but eventually you will conquer the blankness of the page.

  10. It can be frustrating and irritating when you glare at that page not knowing what to write, but as you and Stephen King said you must kick the page’s butt and take names. I agree completely with what is being said here. Often I will want to write something and the idea is in my head all ready to be set on that sheet of paper, but I just can’t find the right words or sentences that fit what I’m trying to say. I’ll be sure to not take on the blank paper lightly from now on.

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