The Dreaded Blank Page

A clean slate. An empty canvas. A fresh start. A new beginning.
Or a potential nightmare of guilt, failure, and shame.

Thus begins the process of each writing project. This blog post began with a blank page. I wondered why I ever agreed over a decade ago to write a blog. I procrastinated with enough excuses to be described as legion. I told myself that no one cares what I think on any subject. I knew I didn’t have anything new to write that would be of significance.

Once my episode of complaining is done, I begin to write. Sometimes I open with a blank screen and my fingers play a chaotic tune as if sight-reading music. Other posts start in a moleskin notebook written by hand. The pages are littered with half-started ideas and incomplete thoughts. And this post is no exception. Today’s is the fourth one that received some scratches.

The blank page is the universal place where every writer begins. And in that moment and in that place all things are equal.

A place where the artist begins creating verba ex nihilo.*

A place of immeasurable potential and endless possibilities.

A place on which a treasure map is drawn, leading a reader to riches unimagined.

A place where worlds are spun into existence.

A place of trauma revisited, of healing experienced, of restoration bestowed.

A place of creation, inspiration, and wonder.

Remember this as you fill today’s blank page:

The world will be a little different tomorrow
because of what you write today.

*words out of nothing

12 Responses to The Dreaded Blank Page

  1. Jeannie Delahunt July 19, 2021 at 5:24 am #

    I suspect The Almighty may have started with a blank page, too, perhaps eons of ages before He said, “Let there be light.” Someday we’ll know.

    What I do love, however, His creative energies He passed onto us. Praise to the Triune God.

  2. Roberta Sarver July 19, 2021 at 6:00 am #

    It’s a thrill each time we writers finish an article or a post or a manuscript, sit back and say, “Did I really write that?” We realize God DID answer our prayer for help in His unique way.

  3. Mark Moss July 19, 2021 at 6:04 am #

    I loved the reference to the Moleskin notebook. I have used a few over the years, especially when I first started writing down ideas.

    You are always encouraging, Steve. Thank you.

  4. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. July 19, 2021 at 6:28 am #

    Thanks for your insight, Steve. When I started my dissertation, which turned out to be 400 pages after I eliminated 50 pages, I typed out the synopsis for each episode of House, M.D. that I would be writing about. That way, I never had a blank page greeting me each day. I also made a commitment to write 2 hours a day, which allowed me to finish the book in 12 months (even though I was teaching at two colleges at the time).

    When I sit down these days to write for various groups, I think about what they are asking me to write and enter a few thoughts on the topic at hand. Again, the page isn’t blank. When writing a novel, I just keep asking myself “what happens next?” and that seems to help a lot. I don’t keep everything and some of it is pretty off track, but at least it isn’t a blank page. This helps me keep going, and perhaps someone else can benefit from these ideas.

  5. Kristen Joy Wilks July 19, 2021 at 7:26 am #

    Interesting. As I listen to podcasts and read interviews with wildly successful and best-selling authors, they consistently say that when they face the blank page of the next project, they feel like a fraud, are certain of failure, until they proceed with the hard work and another story is finally born. Perhaps it is because you are right. In that moment, staring at the blank page, we are all equals. Will we overcome? Will we proceed one more time and develop the skills necessary to make this story better than the one before? Will we not rest upon laurels but face the fact that the blank page awaits every wordsmith? Interesting thoughts about overcoming, Steve.

  6. Kay DiBianca July 19, 2021 at 7:34 am #

    Steve, I like your use of the adjective “dreaded.” Perfect.

    You remind me of a saying attributed to Jodi Picoult: “You can edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”

  7. Colleen K Snyder July 19, 2021 at 7:44 am #

    The world will be a little different tomorrow
    because of what you write today.

    Wow. (And, saying it backward, Wow!)
    Thank you. That’s the encouragement (and kick in the motivator) that I needed this morning. (That, and strong black coffee.)

    Thank you.

  8. Dinah July 19, 2021 at 8:23 am #

    I want to comment but can’t think of anything to write.

  9. Debbie Presnell July 19, 2021 at 12:07 pm #

    Thank you for this! I’m starting a new writing project… and it began on a napkin! I really needed to hear, “ The world will be better tomorrow because of what I write today.

  10. Tiffany Price July 19, 2021 at 11:36 pm #

    The blank page can be both daunting and exhilarating. I love and appreciate this description. Thanks for the reminder, Steve!

  11. Debra Celovsky July 22, 2021 at 11:36 am #

    Thank you, Steve. Much needed, much appreciated.

  12. Wendy July 23, 2021 at 11:49 am #

    While working on my memoir, I sometimes long to write fiction instead. But memoirists can’t escape into fictional characters; we must lay our souls bare, exposing ourselves to scrutiny. It’s uncomfortable, and sometimes perilous, writing our true stories, but I remind myself that perhaps my life experiences can help others who are going through similar trials. Perhaps my pain can help others heal. So, today I sit before the blank page again, and if I shed a few tears in the process, then so be it.

    Thank you for your blog, Steve. I’m grateful to know you understand.

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