You’ve finally made that decision. You’ve got an idea for a great story, and you think that writing will be a blast. You’ve read Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, and you’ve taken an internet course or two. You fire up the ‘ole Word Processing program and you select Create New Document.
Suddenly, you realize that you’re staring at a blank page.
This is one of the most discouraging things writers of fiction face, especially if you’re low on willpower. The sight of a blank page is like the sight of a barren wasteland…and your job is to make that wasteland habitable. No wonder the Blank Page has throttled so many young writers.
Humans fear the unknown, and trust what they know very well. The Blank Page is formless, void, and meaningless. It’s unpredictable. You don’t know what lies beyond, should you start writing. This is what makes the Blank Page so terrifying. You don’t know (and can’t) what is there…because, ultimately, there’s nothing. Only potential. What potential? Of course, you don’t know. So you’re scared.
I’m not saying that you can somehow escape from this hardship. If you want to start your story, you have to deal with the Blank Page. Think of it like this: you’re an invading army. You’re fighting on the enemy’s turf. You have no backup. No timely aid will come when you’re in trouble, nor will a miraculous event happen to save you from doom.
You’re fighting by the enemy’s rule, which is this: you get nothing. Everything you want, you have to work for. I’m giving you nothing, and out of nothing you must make something, and out of something you must create everything that exists. You get no help from your enemy, the blank page.
Just like God created the universe out of nothing in the Bible, you must create your universe out of nothing. The Nothing at the beginning of the universe was God’s Blank Page; your blank page is the Nothing at the beginning of your universe. Do scientists play god? Heck no. That’s something writers do.
This task is intimidating and full of responsibility. You must take the Blank Page and make something…the true process of creation. Ex nihilo–out of nothing. This is what being a writer means, and it’s also why so many people aren’t writers.
You knew this day would come, didn’t you? Or then again, maybe not. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how you deal with the Blank Page. How are you planning your invasion? What will you do first? The odds are stacked against you, so you better have a darn good plan.
You may have your entire battle plan laid out. But how do you take that first step into the unknown? Writing must be done through a pen or a keyboard, and that means it takes time to put all of your ideas on paper or the screen. You’re watering a plant: you put a lot of time and effort into it before you start to see the increase.
So…shut out all the distractions. Focus only on the first word, or, barring that, the first letter. And after that, the second. And the third. Soon, you’ll have a whole sentence. Just focus on the next sentence, and after that, the the next one. Once you have a paragraph, think only of the next paragraph. As far as you’re concerned, nothing else exists except for what you’re writing in the present.
Maybe it takes you a few hours, maybe it only takes a few minutes, but if you’re determined, that first page is born. Take a deep breath and look at it. That’s your base camp, your foothold. This will be your stronghold in the Blank Pages to come. This is your space to think and relax.
What you write about your story will determine how you think about it. Remember, when you write down a story, it may not be as you first envisioned it. It could be far different. But it’s yours, and you wrote it. If it’s bad, redo it. Winning the war starts with a won battle, and the 400-page novel starts with a single page.
Good luck, and happy writing!