Overcoming the Big, Blank Page

 

By: Marilyn L. Davis

Big, Blank Page? Fill it Wisely

 

“Confront the page that taunts you with its whiteness. Face your enemy and fill it with words. You are bigger and stronger than a piece of paper.” ― Fennel Hudson, A Writer’s Year – Fennel’s Journal

 I have gotten emails from other writers asking how I continue to make my niches new and exciting. They perceive that I do not seem to suffer from Writer’s Block. The reality is that I do, from a different perspective, Writers Glut. 

I have too many ideas floating in my head, both for Two Drops of Ink and my other blog, From Addict 2 Advocate.

One problem with brain overload is that we have difficulty focusing. Sadly, for a writer, when we lose focus, we might end up in a situation like Gordon Comstock, the protagonist in George Orwell’s book, Keep the Aspidistra Flying. Comstock struggles to complete an epic poem, which disintegrates into fragments because the writing is not cohesive.

 

Only Add Something if it Enriches the Post

 

While information or links enrich our posts, when we use more than necessary to make our point, the post often becomes:

In case you didn’t know, the Megillah alludes to five books of the Bible read on certain Jewish feast days and considered by some as long and tedious, and frankly, long and wearisome are the last things that people want in a blog post.

 

Too Much for Just One Page? 

 

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”― John Steinbeck

When you have too many words or ideas clamoring for attention, you might find it challenging to focus. I prefer to give each thought or idea its own page on my computer and focus on one at a time.

I’ll start by freewriting, do some research, find appropriate links and images, and then let it sit since it’s the first draft; I don’t worry about a finished piece. Now, it’s not a blank page or one full of random ideas and thoughts. It’s a draft worth revising – later. 

Focusing on the First Draft

 

Revising is not just honing in on the clunky sentences or changing the paragraphs, so the post flows better; it’s determining if the overall content has meaning. 

If you want to make more sense of a first draft, ask yourself these questions to help you focus. You’ll be sure to find answers that stimulate your creativity while narrowing the focus.

  1. Are you passionate, angry, or saddened by the subject?
  2. Can you convey your emotions about the issue in powerful words?
  3. Has your viewpoint changed since you wrote about the topic last?
  4. Are you writing about an underdeveloped aspect of the subject?
  5. Does your site need updated information about this particular topic?
  6. Do you think there’s already too much information about your topic?
  7. Is this a worthwhile topic?
  8. Did you research to find correct, factual, and accurate information?
  9. Can you support your information with credible links?
  10. Can you add useful or valuable information about the topic?
  11. What are your qualifications to write about a topic?

Qualify Your Writing – Makes People Pay Attention

 

Now you know it has meaning, makes sense, and your tenses agree. But how are you presenting this latest post? What qualifies you to write about the topic? 

What is your skill level? 

  1. Skilled
  2. Authority
  3. Knowledgeable
  4. Professional
  5. Expert

When you establish your skill level about the topic, approach it from the reader’s standpoint. Frame questions to help you narrow your focus.

What were you curious about when you didn’t have much information about the topic? What stimulated this interest? 

Write as if you’re discovering something beneficial and exciting, as this tone and sense of wonder will translate and engage your readers.

When we write from the standpoint of learning and teaching, we aren’t condescending or pompous in our choice of words and tone. Remember what you did not know and tell the reader about it. While you’re an authority on the topic now, there’s always a back story about what you learned. 

 

Engage Readers with Stories

 

These stories can also add some humor. “Then there was the time that I didn’t understand…” and let your readers know that you’re an authority or knowledgeable but had to learn a lesson the hard way.

We’ve all made mistakes; in fact, mine was misspelling message with massage, and trust me, that one change in letters made my piece unacceptable for small children, even though spell check let it pass. 

Thank goodness for an editor with an eye for the context like Scott Biddulph.

 

What to Leave In and What to Leave Out?

 

As you learn and write about your topic, you may understand the subtle nuances. Elaborate on them. Remember, you’re not writing this as a new topic. You’re writing this with a skilled eye and can expand on the obvious facets of the subject. However, your readers may just be learning about the topic, so teach them. It is not redundant to explain the essential aspects of the topic.

Suppose you have professional or expert knowledge about a topic. In that case, you need to let readers know that while any post is your opinion, you back it up with years of experience, your education, or current research. 

Qualifying with your credentials is not bragging. You’re doing this so readers learn to trust your posts. 

Your readers know that you’ve worked in a field, have advanced degrees, or you can let them know where else you’re published. Letting them know that other sites value your writing goes a long way in establishing this trust.

Even for an expert, it’s not enough to write about the technicalities, subtle nuances, obscure facts learned over the years, or minutiae of the topic; you still have to write new insights, exciting content, and provide original thoughts. 

 

Make Your Writing Authentic

 

I’ve tried over the years to remember the words of Rainer Maria Rilke,  “Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer.”

Whichever skill level you have about the topic, your deep answer and writing it will make it worthwhile.  Your distinct tone, style, and phrasing can and will make it original, which allows you to produce a stand-out piece.

How you convey your information might be:

  1. Repeating sage wisdom of the ages with a new twist.
  2. Reforming someone’s thinking with persuasive facts, passion, and your point of view.
  3. Revamping one of your old articles with updated information.

 

Taming Block and Glut

 

Some days, we simply have to accept that we can’t produce and publish a piece. We’re too distracted to narrow the focus, too uncertain about our skill level of the subject, or we can’t think of a perspective that isn’t saturated. 

Unless you have a deadline, give yourself a break on those days.

Adopt the Scarlett O’Hara mentality, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

Alternatively, as Ann Lamott says, “The word block suggests that you are constipated or stuck when in fact you are empty.”

 

Am I Just Empty? 

 

When you think you’re empty, then reference the following:

  1. Have you taken a reader’s comment and expanded on it?
  2. What grabbed your attention today?
  3. What piques your curiosity?

I think writers are often too hard on themselves. Writing is one of the few professions that it’s hard to walk away from because it doesn’t need an office. Furthermore, I’ve never seen any mention of traditional writer hours. For most of us, it’s when we’re awake.

 

Too Tired or Too Much Going on to Focus? 

 

Writers are always writing, even if it’s just in our heads. We read signs on the road, imagine characters’ conversations, or a great title pops into our brains while at lunch. Those are the creative ways that we think. But sometimes, all those great ideas don’t go anywhere. 

Unlike most professionals, we’re never without the tools necessary to write. We’ve got the electronics to record our thoughts, and even with a power outage, our phones will have Evernote. Not to mention paper and pen. 

So sometimes, we’ve got to let our brains rest.

  • Jot a few good sentences down.
  • Put the writing in your Darling file
  • Review it the next day.
  • Drink some tea, meditate, take a nap, or call it a day and go to bed and read.

After all, glut and block will undoubtedly pass by morning. And remember those idea drafts? Well, pull one out, research it, image it, and then let that one sit before you revise it. Repeat, and I guarantee that big blank page won’t scare you as much.

 

 

 

Bio: Marilyn L. Davis

She is the Editor-in-Chief at From Addict 2 Advocate and Two Drops of Ink. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, Indie Books, and Books A Million.  

For editing services, contact her at marilyndavisediting@yahoo.com. 

 

 

Here at Two Drops of Ink, we also believe that how something is said is just as important as what is said. In this spirit, we invite you to submit your guest post of poetry, prose, or problem-solving tips for the writer and blogger.

Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing

 

 

 

 

9 comments

  1. Thanks for the wisdom Marilyn. Always informative and unexpectedly funny. It’s a healthy reminder to stay in touch with my passion and viewpoint. I didn’t start writing because I wanted to crank out one dry, gutless article after another just so I could say “I did my part as a writer today.” I think, apart from putting in the necessary work as far as writing is concerned, we would do well to have some faith that our stories have chosen us. We should remind ourselves to enjoy life and write what we can write for the day.

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