Why writers should embrace the blank page.

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Ever since I have been writing, two things have been regularly thrown in my direction.

The first is that at some point all writers get writers block, the second is that a blank page is a scary thing.

I’ve written about writers block numerous times before so I won’t go over that again (however, to paraphrase it for any newbies, in essence I believe it’s a myth designed to excuse one of any number of basic failings) but the issue of the blank page is something I’ve rarely discussed. As I sit here facing a new one today, now seems as good a time as any.

Now, however unlikely it might be, all writers have to believe that somewhere deep inside us is the ability to pen a booker prize winning novel, a ‘Harry Potter’ style literary phenomenon or an Oscar winning screenplay.

The blank page signifies what is possibly the beginning of the journey toward the creation of that very book or script and like the start of any journey, there are two ways of looking at it. You can either be pessimistic or optimistic. Which one you choose, or rather which one chooses you, is wholly dependent on the type of person you are.

The pessimist of course, will suspect that it is highly likely that within a first few pages, they will realise that this new project won’t be the big break they are dreaming of and instead, even as they sit there hammering away, they are going to be accompanied by that awful sense of hope evaporating.

And as hope rolls away, it will be replaced by the standard writers fears of exposure, of failure, of making yourself look stupid and possibly worst of all, of being boring. Who on earth would want to risk any of that let alone willingly put themselves through it?

Yes, all of that and more lurks on that single A4 page or a blank screen filled with nothing but white. Having written 15 books and numerous screenplays, I can state that with authority.

Thankfully, these days I tend to be a bit more confident and far from fearing the blank page, I love it! And for one very specific reason: it signifies power. Power to create anything I want to create be it non-fiction, fiction, thriller, comedy, male, female, sex, crime, football… anything.

A blank page gives me freedom to develop characters from my own imagination and make them do whatever I want them to do be it good, bad or even evil. I can make them love, hate or even kill them off, horribly if I want. And all of that comes from nothing other than my imagination. That’s what I call power! Real power!

That, in essence, is exactly what I’m facing at the moment. For today I start work on a new novel based on a recently completed screenplay.

It’s very different from my previous novels in that it’s about the military but in many ways, that makes it even more exciting as I can call on my own experiences in uniform. However, if the novel proves half as enjoyable to write as the movie version was, it’s going to be brilliant fun and since I write primarily for me, that’s all that matters.

Blank page… don’t be frightened of it, love it. It’s everything any writer could ever want.

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Despite being over 14 years old, The Crew and Top Dog continue to sell well with an audio version of Top Dog now available to download via here!

Wings of a Sparrow also continues to do well in both paperback and eBook formats and I’m hoping that like the movie version of Top Dog, this will also make the leap to the screen at some point very soon.

All being well, I’ll also be able to pass on news of another movie project in the very near future.

 

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17 thoughts on “Why writers should embrace the blank page.”

  1. Brilliant work Dougie! No pressure, but the threequel will need to be blinding. I thought the second one was better than the first.
    I’m with you on writer block – don’t get it. I like your thinking on the blank page too.

      1. Nice plugging! I did actually post on your blog once I realised what you’d done! Nice piece and very true.

        Digital is the way forward methinks (if they can sort out the reviewing farce!)

  2. I would have agreed that writers block was a myth until last year when I spent most of the year staring at the computer and willing my latest book to write itself. The task seemed insurmountable. Inspiration simply would not come. I’d write one or two sentences, then revert to my comatose state. My brain was, in effect, blocked. But, of course, I now realise that the ‘block’ was created by other things that were going on in my life – the death of my mother, being the principle one. I suspect my brain partially shut down, probably to allow me to deal with those issues and to heal. So, really, writer’s block is just an effect of other stresses going on in the writer’s life – well, that’s my theory. A year on, I am back to my old prolific self and the words are flowing. So to anyone else feeling blocked, I’d say examine what else is going on in your life and there you may well find the root cause.

    Dougie, I very much enjoy reading your blogs. Great to hear that your books are doing so well.

    1. Thank you Tara. Appreciate the post and hearing about your experience.

      I agree with you in that if there is some kind of problem, it is often to do with an inability to focus on the subject at hand. It’s how you switch off from that which is important, if indeed you can!

      After all, some things are more important than writing!!

  3. I like your reference to the blank page as power to create. There is nothing in this world that makes me feel as complete and purposeful as creating. Until two months ago, I considered myself an aspiring writer because I have been trying to finish the same two books for over a decade. My problem has never been the blank page. My problem has been never being happy with what is on the page and revising endlessly or putting it away to collect dust; sometimes, several times. I am proud that I finally got over that mountain and published my first book in July, strange as this particular one may be. What’s really daunting is that spreadsheet with my numerous creative ideas in just about every format!

  4. Hooray! Someone else on the planet who thinks writer’s block is a myth! I have written two blog posts on this, and had ‘conversations’ on writers’ sites with people who vehemently insist that writer’s block is real, and that what I am talking about includes writer’s block. (I believe that the writing process is multi-faceted, and that – barring some trauma or outside influence that takes your energy – there is no such thing as a creative block, if you are truly tuned to your creative-ness and your project(s)).
    Beethoven didn’t suffer ‘composer’s block’ but neither did he expect himself to sit down every single day and compose for hours. Usain Bolt doesn’t get up every day and run a 100 metre championship race, yet he dedicates his days to winning every race he enters by doing other things that are essential. Writer’s are, and should be, no different. It is only our romantic fantasy about the writer, inspiration and ‘the muse’ (all of which reached their peak in the Romantic Era), that perpetuates the double-edged myth; that we should be writing that inspired masterpiece every day, and that we will also, inevitably, suffer the horrible Black Plague of Writer’s Block. A fine fantasy, and a sad piece of delusion; at worst, a melodramatic excuse for failure, and its self-inflicted guilt. Not the least bit useful or healthy for any artist.

    1. Congratulations, Ebaywhisperer, on completing your first book. It really is an accomplishment. I didn’t exactly jump for joy when I put the last word to my first novel, but I did enjoy a quiet, but solid, sense of achievement. I think it changes your perspective on yourself. 🙂 Good luck with it once it’s out in the world. 🙂

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