Blank Space: On Starting to Write

Blank Space-2

Blank space is terrifying.

I’m not talking about the Taylor Swift song (because let’s be real, that song is golden). I’m talking about staring at an empty screen or an empty notebook and blank space just stares back at you.

Obviously, it would be too easy to come up with a brilliant idea as soon as your butt hits the chair and you’re positioned to write. Instead your ideas come when you’re literally running late to an appointment, driving on the highway, at the grocery store, in the middle of an important meeting, or any other time deemed inappropriate or unrealistic to take a pen and scrawl your idea down.

Recently I struggled with a short story I was writing. I didn’t feel like it had any drive, there wasn’t enough conflict to keep it interesting. For about a week, every time I sat down at my laptop to work on it, I couldn’t come up with a problem for my narrator. Of course the solution came to me as I was walking across campus on my way to class, and by the time I opened up the document later that night, I was terrified.

I still had the same idea bouncing around in my mind, but it had time to marinate and mingle with my other thoughts, thoughts that had nothing to do with my short story. My fingers were poised over the keyboard but I couldn’t stop staring at the half-empty page. I knew exactly what I wanted to happen next, but what if it didn’t turn outΒ exactly the way I imagined it hours prior?

Honestly for me, blank space is scary because starting is scary or because writer’s block is scary; I’m more afraid that the words that rush in and fill this space are not going to be the same words that take up room in my mind.

What if my idea sounded better in my head than it does on the page?

What if no one else understands my idea because I don’t do a good enough explaining it?

What if I can’t get the specific wording and phrasing that was so eloquent in my mind?

What if what I end up writing is so inadequate I can’t even do anything with it?

I could continue, but I think my point is made.

This is definitely one of those fears that I need to get over. Obviously I won’t accomplish anything if I don’t write down any of my ideas. But I need to stop being so afraid that the space on the screen or the page won’t be a direct replica of the space in my mind. But that’s okay. I’ll learn to deal.

What’s your advice on starting to write? Any tips for getting over the fear of inadequacy?

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2 thoughts on “Blank Space: On Starting to Write

  1. Great article! Blank space is also equally terrifying to me, especially when, just like you, my best ideas appear at the worst times imaginable and, by the time I get home, I have no clue what to write. However, recently, when I get an idea on the go, I try to jot it in my iPhone’s notes as soon as I can. That way, I can at least capture the thought in its full glory before it blows away forever. Thank you once again!

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