Fearing the Blank Page

Since I have been back from my holiday I’ve found it increasingly difficult to write. Not only that, but I’ve noticed a distinct aversion to the task. If I have time when I think I should be writing I become lethargic, melancholy and somewhat sulky. I don’t want to do it. When I force myself into the chair I am dismissive of anything that materialises on the page. Not only is the writing flat and dull, but the focus of the piece is similarly mundane and dissatisfying. It does not inspire me or provide me with an ounce of confidence for when I might have to return to writing again. In short, it puts me off.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite like this before. The thought of writing at the moment fills my being with emotions akin to disgust: whatever words I may write, they are despicable and unworthy. Somewhere along the line I’ve lost the magic of writing – the freedom and joy that creating something from scratch can allow. For unknowable reasons, right now, I do not want to write.

Except, of course, that I do.

I’m a writer. It’s in my soul. I love finding stories in words, imagining characters and bringing them to life on the page, putting them in challenging situations and seeing what happens. The very idea that I am capable of doing this tugs on the corner of my lips and convinces me to smile. I adore storytelling. Yet, at the moment, the act of putting words on the page in any type of meaningful order seems to repel me.

daringPerhaps it’s because I’ve come off the heels of a novel that I’m comfortable with – having worked on it for three years already – and trying to recast my skills into the short form again. I’ve got a list of competition deadlines up on my calendar and with each passing day I feel my ability to submit to these waning and fading. I’m trying to force my mind into writing within certain themes – a task I used to find ridiculously easy – and it is resisting. Despite being receptive to my Writing Group activities, whereupon we’re given a ten minute exercise at which I can creatively excel, trying to recreate this freedom within the context of a competition topic is getting me nowhere.

So I need to find ways to enjoy writing again. I need to take the pressure off. I need to go back to basics and rediscover what it means to write for myself. This means competition deadlines will be put aside and their themes forgotten. Right now, I need the freedom to explore words in whatever form they come and not feel the need to shoehorn them into something they are not. To help me do this, I’ve decided on a few ‘easy’ exercises I hope will stimulate some creativity.

1. Go back to the expectation that I really only have to ‘write one sentence a day. Just one sentence a day. Everyday. How easy is that?’
2. Attempt an activity Rosie Garland reveals as one of her creative rituals:
“ I…write six images. What a snail looks like climbing up a leaf, what it felt like to stub your toe. I do it every morning without fail, if miss one I do a catch up session later.”
3. Remember that I write because I want to, not because I should.
4. Keep this in mind [Thanks again goes to Rosie for putting things into perspective. ;)]:

blank page quote

Hopefully, by next week I will be able to report that my fondness for writing has returned, or at least that my skills are developing once more and I will no longer be afraid of that blank page. It’s been such a long time since I faced the dreaded blinking cursor that I’d forgotten how intimidating it can be and how fear of having no ideas can often prevent us from developing any new ideas.


What do you do when you don’t feel like writing? “Feel the fear and do it anyway?” Or admit you might need more time and calmly wait it out?
Let me know in comments, or Tweet Me


14 responses to “Fearing the Blank Page

  1. Pingback: How a daily Writing Exercise helped re-inspire my muse | Cat Lumb: The Struggle to be a Writer

  2. I’ve been there several times over the years. How I’ve dealt with it just depends. There are times when I forge through and everything turns out all right in the end. Other times, I set it all aside for a short hiatus and read instead. Often reading others’ words — the words of a story I love dearly and perhaps inspired me to write this particular project — and some rest is enough to reignite the passion once more. Hope your passion returns quickly. : )

    • Thank you – the idea of reading other people’s words who inspired me to begin with is a very good suggestion. That’s often worked for me in the past, but like you I think it depends on lots of factors. I suspect that this time around, for me, it was too much pressure and an over-load of stimulus – trying to force connection with writing themes and ‘write-to-order’.
      After a week of low expectation, writing exercises and another short holiday away I feel much more positive and I’ve even written a couple of pieces I’ve ended up submitting to places! Hopefully the passion is back – at the very least the ideas are returning and that’s half the battle sometimes!

      Thanks for sharing. It’s good to remember that there can be many reasons we all struggle to write.
      Take Care, Cat

      • Glad to hear the passion is back! Sounds like you found just the right remedy for this bout. Sounds like an easier schedule and a break was just what you needed. : )

  3. I feel you on the blank page thing, but one trick I always have up my sleeve before my mind tricks me back: I always have an idea of where I want to go. Four months ago, I started a story knowing that I wanted it to be a murder mystery that flipped on top of itself in a weird way.

    It took a bit to take my characters from their starting point, to the murder itself, and then all the way through to its conclusion, but once I wrote down the murder the pieces clicked into place and it just flowed. The initial idea pushed me through to that point, and then story took it from there.

    • This is what I’ve been struggling with the most. I just haven’t been able to picture what I want to write and therefore anything I have been writing seems forced and reads terribly!
      Fortunately I think I have got around it thanks to the exercises used above (see next post) but I do agee it’s much easier to write when you have an idea through to the end – like you say, it pushes you on and the excitement is maintained, even when you get stuck.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Cheers, Cat

  4. I like the one sentence thing. I always find it so hard to start a new novel; I’m so used to it now that I know I’ll get that ‘breakthrough’ at around 20K words, so just have to make myself keep going, to that point. Each time it gets harder. This time ‘it’ didn’t happen until nearer 30K, despite my having written a 30 page chapter that I was proud of; I was scared it wouldn’t happen. Don’t worry, it’ll come back. Perhaps extend the one sentence thing to one sentence per few hours. Before you know it, that one sentence might become one paragraph.

    • I think it’s because I’ve been in novel-writing mode for so long that I’ve forgotten how to start from scratch with a simple idea and weave that into a short story!
      I like the idea of extending one sentence goal as it get easier to achieve; good thinking!
      Thanks for stopping by Terry – appreciate the support. 🙂

  5. Sometimes I give myself a break – away from it all (writing) – or start reading instead – other times I do as you have decided and look to writing exercises. If any of you are at a loss or still in need by the end of October – 25/26th I run a free online writing retreat from my blog.
    Good luck with getting the words out again.

    • I like…no, I love the idea of a writing retreat done via a blog! I will definitely have to check it out – though that weekend is my partner’s birthday weekend so it might be tricky!

      A break is definitely what I needed. I’ve even struggled to read of late so I think it’s a bit of overload. Thankfully the exercises helped, so I’m back at it now! 🙂

      Thanks for letting me know about the retreat.
      Take Care, Cat

      • The posts will remain up after the event Cat, so pop along and have a splash in the Fountain after you have celebrated birthdays.

        For those who are around it is always fun to join in real time – but as that’s GMT and we have an international following it isn’t always possible.

        Dip in, dip out – but don’t forget to comment to let us know you are about!

      • Thanks – I will certainly do that. Will try and share closer to the time on Twitter too. Love that last rhyme, very catchy. 🙂

  6. I feel your pain! A lot of the time, I feel like I should be writing more, or better, content, and if I don’t write for a certain amount of time I feel guilty. So I end up churning out stuff but I can tell my heart’s not really in it. This usually happens if I’ve had a busy week at work, or have been away – when life gets in the way, I feel like my cycle has been interrupted, and it’s difficult to get back into that head space again. Writing to a theme i.e. for a competition can sometimes feel like it’ll be easier, and it is something I found really easy at university, but nowadays I find it even more restricting and difficult!

    The exercises you’ve suggested are great, and sound like perfect ways to force yourself to write without the added pressure of producing something specific. I hope they help you move past this road bump!

    • I’m glad someone else understands what I’ve been going through – it’s so frustrating! Like you say, it’s life getting in the way and interrupting the cycle so we have to take it back to basics I think.

      I’ve just got back from a weekend away where I didn’t read or write! And, I’m glad to report, the exercises have worked – see the next blog post! 🙂

      Sorry I didn’t respond to your comment sooner. Thanks for dropping by.
      Take Care,

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