Tag Archives: facing the blank page

Facing the Blank Page…Again

Every writer I know has trouble writing. — Joseph Heller

The blank page taunts me again. It demands my attention, requires me to make the Big Decision. In order to do what they love, writers make sacrifices. Some writers don’t think of them as sacrifices while others feel guilty about them. Writers also need to really get to know how their minds work in order to survive writing. Curiosity rules the writer’s mind, especially a curiosity of why human beings behave as they do. Trouble writing can be about the writing itself (find the right words, editing, grammar, narrative structure, etc.) or about creating the conditions in a life in order to be able to sit at the desk to write.

Yesterday, a realization seared my mind. The Blank Page was throwing a tantrum in order to get my attention, and when I stopped long enough to pay attention, the thought marched through my mind like a screaming subtitle across the screen of my life: I needed to focus my attention and just do it.

What does that mean? For the rest of the day, I reflected, had discussions with myself in my mind, and finally realized that I’d been giving myself too many free passes. My Attention Butterfly flits from one interest to another, never staying too long in one place before moving on to something else. My imagination latches on to an idea and spins endless variations on it, testing different directions, capturing my attention away from what I know is most important to me in my life. Granted, it’s been a rough year lifewise, and that’s interfered with a lot. But it looks like my life will be settling down and now it’s time to return to my creative process and trust it.

My “Office”

What does that mean? The short answer: I need to laser aim my focus on my writing. I feel a tremendous pressure, both mentally and physically, to stop restlessly wandering and concentrate on my creative process, figure out what I need to do to nurture it now, and then spend the time I need to spend to get down on paper (or the computer screen) all the stories that have been skipping around in my mind lately. I’ve known for a long time that my ravenous curiosity can consume me, and what I need to do is put it on a diet of writing or writing-related food. It’s particularly helpful when I’m doing research for something, and I’ll need to ratchet it up to research questions that have been coming up as I’ve been working on the Aanora story.

So, the “blank page” I’m writing about this time isn’t actually a piece of paper or the computer screen, but the dedication to writing. I have writing projects lined up like planes on a runway. But the control tower isn’t paying attention.

I know what I need to do, and I’m determined to do it again as I have in the past in order to write and write and write, i.e. establish a writing schedule and cut everything else out of my life. A comment by a writer in a magazine yesterday also hit home — the writer was talking about how the more writing a writer does on a consistent schedule, usually daily, the better the writing becomes, the faster it hits the page. I experienced this in 2007 when I edited a draft of Perceval’s Secret, then immediately wrote the first draft of Perceval’s Shadow and half of the first draft of Perceval in Love in about 10 months before life stepped in front of that writing train and stopped it cold.  I would love to get that kind of momentum going again, even with a fulltime job stealing time away from the writing during the work week.

My imagination is ready. My mind is ready. What about yours?

P. S. If you’d like to read my first Facing the Blank Page, it’s here.

Facing the Blank Page

Whether the blank page is paper or a computer screen, the effect is the same.  It’s blank.  How to get started?

For me, I start long before I sit down to face the blank page.  My rational mind and my imagination have frequent play dates when I’ve gotten an idea for a story, and I let them work out some kinks before I commit anything to paper/computer file.  But sometimes I feel a powerful urge to put words down, to see them in front of me, to make the process more concrete.  Let’s face it, so much of what writers do while developing stories resides in the mind.  Seeing words on paper encourages my mind and imagination that I’m serious about what they’re telling me.

Recently, I’ve had two main ideas banging around in my head.  One is for a science fiction short story, and the other is for a series of essays that draw on my experience with the medical world during the last eleven years.  Neither has emerged as the priority.  Today, for example, I’ve been thinking a LOT about the essay series.  A couple days ago, it was the short story and its structure that preoccupied me.

As hard as I work to make the development process linear, my mind refuses to cooperate.  It’s like riding a bucking horse.  Do I manage to stay on?  Not for long.

I’ve read articles in which writers talk about starting by writing out an outline, or writing character sketches, or writing the ending.  Other writers talk about just putting the behind in the chair and writing.  They figure out what they’ve written later and how it fits into the project they’re working on or not.  Creativity knows no standard process, no linear process.  Creativity flows and all writers can do is encourage the flow, remove any obstacles, be there for the flow.  Allow no room for discouragement.

One of my favorite things to do to get the flow going?  I walk.  If I’m walking inside, I listen to classical music on a personal CD player.  I rarely listen to music when I’m walking outdoors.  There’s too much to look at, smell, and hear.  More often than not, my mind goes off walking too, in its own way, exploring my experience in the last 24 hours, who said what to whom, and then lazily circles back to think about the writing project I’m working on.  By the time I’m actually facing the blank page two things have happened: one, I’m excited; and two, I have enough about setting, time period, characters and action to start putting words on the page.

The medical world essays have been a different mind experience.  I decided weeks ago that I wanted the tone of the essays to be conversational.  My mind and imagination have interpreted that to mean public speaking.  They’ve been working through the various topics for each essay as if I needed to give a speech on each one.  This is weird.  I don’t like public speaking at all.  But for some reason, this idea unlocks the flow.

Because each writer’s mind and imagination differ from every other writer’s, it makes sense that each writer would have his or her own way of encouraging the flow of ideas and words so that when he sits down to put words to paper, there’s something to write.  Have you considered your creative process lately?