The Blank Page Is Not Your Enemy

Some days you will sit down to write and draw a big fat blank.

Yeesh. Horrible feeling. I am generally of the school of thought that writer’s block comes from a lack of preparation, but sometimes you can do everything right — plan what you’re going to work on, warm up, have a nice ritual with yourself — and still you get crickets.

When that happens, here’s what I do.

First, put on some fun music. Something that makes you feel zesty and energetic. (If you haven’t got your own playlist for that, here’s mine.) Other creative people having fun goes a long way to get you in the right frame of mind.

Often this will be enough to kick things off, but if you’re not underway in about 10 minutes, go have a snack. Something healthy but satisfying, like pistachios or an apple with peanut butter (sometimes writer’s block is, in fact, low blood sugar). Have some water too.

Then make your very best attempt to get at least few sentences down for the next 10 to 15 minutes.

Still nothing? Time for a hot shower. Really hot. You should come out lightly boiled.

Normally this is a magical cure-all, and gets new exciting thoughts steaming up out of your brain.

At this stage, I’m very suspicious if the words still won’t come. Something is going on that your brain does not want to deal with. It does happen, though, and when it does, you have two options.

The first is to leave it alone for a day. Sometimes, as Alan Watts says, muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone. If you’ve been going full tilt, sometimes you’re so full that you can’t even fit another breath into your brain in order to breath anything out.

(Sleep is the only cure for that, followed by a morning writing session to drain away what dreaming has processed.)

The second option is to change up your space and get really focused on figuring out The Thing that’s getting in your way.

Go somewhere different to where you usually do your writing.

When I know it’s time for a hard conversation with myself — where I’m going to get utterly merciless with myself internally — I like to set up my external environment to coddle me as much as possible.

I’ll often get into bed or curl up under a huge blanket with a hot chocolate or a glass of wine, burn my best candle, break out my favourite pen and get cosily settled in before I set upon myself.

(I know, I know — I’m the worst Stoic going. But it works.)

I’ll put myself through the wringer, pushing and pushing on the page until The Thing comes clean. This takes as long as it takes.

On days like this, you might not get much other writing done. But doing this work is like breaking down a dam wall.

Getting rid of what’s holding you back releases floods, and the next time you sit down to write, you’ll be swept along by the current of energy you’ve freed up.

Don’t be scared of these days, . There’s power in them, and progress. The blank page is not your enemy: it’s a clue, and it’s your job to hunt down what it’s telling you.