Depending on the situation a blank page can either be a curse or a blessing. For me depending on where I am in my process, it can be either and sometimes it’s both.
When I am starting a new project that blank page can be a daunting prospect. If it’s a story I only have a vague idea on what I want to happen or if the characters aren’t completely developed that blinking cursor on the screen feels like it’s taunting me. It says “you don’t know what you’re doing”. Or perhaps that’s my ego telling me a false reality. Either way the result is the same, I stare at the screen and get nothing written.
Other times the beginning of a new project is inspiring. The blank page with all the endless possibilities of what could happen next. It’s rewarding to see my thoughts spill on to the page. I have learned over the years of writing, the more I think about the project before I begin the easier the beginnings become. The writer’s block a the start of new project is typically (for me anyway) from lack of planning. As much as I want to be a pantser, much like I am in my everyday life; living from one moment to the next, with writing I am a plotter and an outliner. The more time I think and plan the characters the easier time I have writing the starting point. After the story takes shape I allow myself to fly by the seat of my pants, but not until the main idea and direction of the story has developed. One must be flexible as you write, as sometimes the best story lines pop up rather unexpectedly.
The most inspiring blank page, for me, it during the middle of the project. I have a habit of wanting to sink my teeth into a new project as soon as the one I am working on starts to get difficult. At one point while I was working on Dissonance, I got stuck. Not just a little I’m not sure how to write the next scene, but more along the lines of I don’t even know what the next scene should be. I was over halfway finished with the book and I was lost. I was starting to wonder if I had taken a bad turn in the plot somewhere and needed to go back and find that twist and remove it, rewriting who knows how many chapters in the process. But instead of going back and rereading the entire book, I decided to skip to a scene that I wanted to happen at a later time. I opened a brand new word document and started writing. The stress of the prior word count was irrelevant. The particular scene I wrote had been swimming around in my head for a few days or even a week. I thought perhaps if I got that scene out of my mind, maybe I could figure out how to link the two parts of the book later. It worked! It always seems if I take a step forward in the plot it’s always easier to work backwards.
Sometimes that blank screen is awful and frightening, but sometimes that blank screen is fantastic and full of endless possibilities. It’s just a matter of view-point.
This post is based on very first writing prompt from the Writers’ Coffeehouse community on Google+. Every Wednesday a new prompt will be posted on the Coffeehouse. For more information on the Coffeehouse go here. If you’d like to sign up to receive the prompts in your email fill out the form below to be added to the mailing list.