Ever since I’ve been writing, two things have regularly been thrown in my direction.
The first is that at some point all writers experience writers block, the second is that the blank page is a terrifying thing.
I’ve written about writer’s 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 to tackle it because the explanation is relatively simple.
You see loathe was we are to admit it, all writers 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 the opportunity to commence the creation of that particular creative journey and like any opportunity, 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 will type those first few words already believing that this new project won’t be the big break they have been dreaming of and instead, even as they sit there hammering away, they will fairly quickly be enveloped by that awful sense of hope evaporating.
And as that 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 blank screen filled with nothing but white. Having written 16 books and numerous screenplays, I can state that with some authority.
Thankfully, having been writing for some considerable time now I tend to be far more optimistic and far from fearing the blank page, I love it! 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 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. How can anyone not find that exciting?
That, in essence, is exactly what I’m facing at the moment. For having just completed work on the third book in the Billy Evans trilogy, today I start work on a new novel.
It’s a thriller I’ve been planning for a while and having read over the numerous notes I’ve made over the last few years, it’s going to be great fun to work on.
Blank page… don’t be frightened of it, love it. It’s everything any writer could ever want.
Despite being over 18 years old, The Crew and Top Dog continue to sell well with the former continuing to inhabit the #1 slot on its Amazon chart. Indeed the new book will bring the character of Billy Evans right up to date and if I say so myself (although I don’t because my beta readers have told me) it’s a cracker. I’ll have news of publication dates as soon as my publisher lets me know!
Finally, thanks to everyone who continues to contact me about Wings of a Sparrow which also continues to do well in both paperback and eBook formats. Having recently sold the film rights, I’m seriously hoping that we’ll soon see it make the leap to the big screen.
screenwriter, screenwriting, author, self-publishing, green street, top dog, british film, gangsters, the krays, hooligans, collymore, troll, trolling
17 thoughts on “Why no writer should ever fear a blank page.”
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.
Thanks for that Lee. I’m certainly aiming for something special!
I like that. But it looks like an extract from something?
Is it? and if so, what?
A plug maybe? From me talking about your work? Is this you plugging my plug?
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!)
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.
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!!
Correction to spelling in previous reply – meant ‘principal’ . Anal, I know, but I am a stickler for spellings.
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!
My ideas are on what seems to be a million post-it notes! 😀
A good take on the blank page and a really good point. Think I will have to look at it as exciting rather than daunting now! 😀
Excellent plan! 🙂
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.
Well said sir. I actually blogged about this myself some time ago.
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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