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Friday, December 18, 2009

Fear of the Blank Page

The blank page intimidates most writers. Unfortunately, that intimidation doesn’t necessarily go away with time or experience. Left unchecked the fear of starting with a blank page can turn into full-blown writer’s block. While there is no perfect solution, I do have some tips that may help.
First, downplay the importance of the writing process. Robert Golembiewski, a prolific academic writer, wrote his first drafts in long hand on the backs of old student hand-outs plucked for the recycling bin. How important could anything scribbled on the back of a hand-out be? When writing by long hand, I use a one-subject, spiral notebook. It’s cheap and unpretentious. If you compose on a computer, insert the word DRAFT in large letters in the header and footer of the page.
Second, give yourself permission to write a lousy first draft. Realize that you are going to repeatedly replace the words in your first draft. Since your first draft will not survive, you do not have to fear how bad it is. After you have rewritten your first draft, you can delete it, shred it, burn it – whatever suits you.
Third, never start with a blank page at the beginning of the day. When you stop writing for the day, leave a page unfinished. On that page, leave you last sentence unfinished. This habit will ensure that you never have to face a blank page at the beginning of your writing session.

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