Six Ways to Conquer the Blank Page
By freelance travel writer, Jerre Repass in Brinkley, AR
Sitting in front of a blank page has been described as watching a rabbit in a snow storm. Not a pleasant experience for the rabbit or the writer! But truth be known, almost all writers have moments, days, weeks, when productivity is zero. Fear of writer’s block can take on a life of its own. But take heart! There are a number of tried-and-tested techniques for conquering the blank page.
1) CUT YOURSELF A LITTLE SLACK AND RELAX YOUR BRAIN.
I once interviewed Gary Baker of Sheffield, Alabama. He is an incredible songwriter with credits like “I Swear,” and “Once Upon a Lifetime.” “How do you get your ideas, how do you get started?” I asked. Well, Gary has an immense lawn and a riding lawnmower. You guessed it: He puts the mower into gear and his brain into neutral. “Pretty soon I’m humming a tune,” he says. The message: Relax the brain and let your creative self emerge.
One reader, Eileen Leroux, says she takes one or two days to do something frivolous or trivial to clear her mind for the job ahead.
2) WRITE A POSTCARD.
Another reader, Leslie Escoto, writes a note to her daughter on some pretty letter paper to get her heart involved. Then she is ready to tackle her writing assignment. Emotions are the seat of motivation. They can move you to take time to write, even if it isn’t always convenient to do so.
3) SLEEP ON IT.
Coming up with the introduction to a story is the most important piece of the puzzle for many writers. About 99% of the time, I will use an anecdote that makes the point I want my reader to “get” from my story. I think illustrations are very powerful and set the stage for what comes next.
This is where the sub-conscious part of your brain can be very helpful. After feeding in the facts, I tell myself I need a good intro, and then I go to bed for the night. Amazingly, many times I am awakened by the “You have mail” signal in the brain that supplies just what I need.
4) TAKE A SHOWER.
There’s something about directly stimulating the head with a lively flow of water that gets some people’s brains moving. Some folks report they often get their best ideas in the shower.
5) FEED YOUR MIND THE INFORMATION IT NEEDS TO DO THE JOB.
For many writers this is the most enjoyable part of the project — research, interviews, reading over any press materials you have gathered on the subject. It is a little web-surfing and pulling facts you already know to the surface. This is really doing the homework of a writing assignment. It isn’t creative — at least not yet — but it is what leads to creativity.
This is also where many writers get stuck: They reason that as long as they are still gathering information they are making progress. But the truth is, there is a limit to what you will use. Some of the great novelists of the last century report they had ten times as much material as they had finished copy. Even those in-depth researchers knew there was a time to fish or cut bait!
6) SET A DEADLINE FOR YOURSELF.
Some of us just work better with a measurable time frame. Give yourself enough time so you are challenged to finish at a certain time and have every reason to think that is going to happen. Pace yourself through the several steps so that the joy of writing is part of your reward. I like to be finished early enough to put it on ice for a couple of days like a good spaghetti sauce. The last time I read it over, I will undoubtedly add just a touch of the right spice!
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]