Who’s Afraid of a Blank Page?
I’ve been teaching myself to draw. I’ve actually been working on it for many years now and I finally feel like I’m making a little bit of progress. But even though I’ve drawn some things I really like, I still get sweaty palms when I sit down in front of a blank page.
I’m not sure of how the drawing will turn out. I fear it will be awful. I feel stymied by not knowing exactly how to draw what I want. I don’t want to make a mistake. I go through all these emotions even though I don’t really expect anyone to ever see the picture.
The reality is that it often isn’t very good. The face looks lopsided. I run out of room for the feet. I can’t get the eyes just right. At the same time, it’s fine. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I can’t know how it will turn out until I get going and it’s often better than what I expected.
This is what writing is like. A blank page is intimidating. It brings up a lot of fears and concerns and feelings of inadequacy. And unlike my drawings, which can remain hidden, much of our writing is intended for public consumption.
But once you get past the blank page, once you get going, you will often find that it’s easier and better than you anticipated. You really just need to get started.
The best advice I got on the art side is to start by just scribbling. Scribble up an entire page. It loosens you up and helps you relax. There’s no pressure for it to be great.
What’s the writing equivalent?
Push aside any anxiety and launch into a brain dump. Just start writing or typing the ideas you have. Don’t be directed and don’t try to put them into a pattern just yet. Just get them out. Don’t stress if they’re not fully formed. Putting them down on paper – or on computer screen – will help you form them.
Then, you no longer have a blank page.
Plus, it’s easy to change what you’ve written. At least if you’ve got words on the page, you’ve got something to work with.