You just bought a new notebook. It has a glossy cover, blank off-white pages with a feint ruled printing and a new book smell. You have great plans for it! You will write great stories of the bravest heroes and their heated, action-packed battles through the jungles of prose! You will finally write a story that will be published!

So you reach for your favourite pen, the one tucked in the deep corner of your desk, (behind your laptop which is still opened to an untitled Word document) and you uncap it, ready to attack the page.

And then: I haven’t thought of the words to write. What should I put at the top of the page? Should I start with a character profile? But I’ve only thought of a name. Maybe plunge into the story? But I haven’t thought of a first sentence. What about the setting, the story outline, the resolution?

What if I ruin this pretty notebook?

You tap the table with the other end of your pen. You cap it back. You stare at the blank page. “I’ll write later,” you say, “when I think of the words for my epic idea.”

You go and eat lunch. You watch a movie. Maybe you even start on that piece of homework you were procrastinating on.

Two weeks later, you remember you still have that notebook. You open it up and look at the blank page. The new book smell is gone now. The lines on the page no longer entice you to write on them. You put the book back. Maybe you should get a notebook with sepia coloured lines. The story will flow easier then.

Maybe you should write a few lines on this one, to get ready for that new notebook. You scribble a few lines and wrinkle your nose at your sloppy handwriting. The words don’t look right together. Now the notebook is ruined. You slam it shut and shove it into the shelf along with five other half-used notebooks. “I should probably get that sepia-lined notebook soon so I can start writing,” you say to yourself.

Do you procrastinate on writing like me?

I have a phobia of messing up empty notebooks and so I wait until I conjure up the perfect plan of what to write from page one till the end before I get ink-to it (which is never). Or I have a vague idea that I try to develop (in my mind, since I don’t want to ruin my notebook) but because the perfected story world and fully-developed characters don’t come to me at once, I let the idea fade into oblivion. Or I think about what a bad writer I am and how I will ruin the story if I start writing it.

Then I spend the day staring at the ceiling, contemplating a more successful future in road-sweeping.

What to do?

To solve the problem of the empty notebooks, I write an introduction in my new notebooks (of what I hope to write inside it) so that I don’t have to deal with the blank page.

As for my perfectionist tendencies of having to plan out everything before I write, I have thought about drawing my very ugly mind-maps (think squiggles with arrows pointing from one squiggle to another) and disjointed sentences that some call inspiration in my bullet journal. Emphasis on thought about.

And finally, I still do spend the day staring at the ceiling, though now I occasionally read books which tell me that the only way to get better as a writer is to write, and then I contemplate a more successful future as a mattress tester.

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4 thoughts on “Phobia of the Blank Page

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