– Overcoming the dreaded blank page –

After an unforeseen hiatus to deal with some personal issues I’m finally back to work on my PhD and my writing. And what better way to make some much needed progress on both fronts than to write a new blog post?

I’ve been thinking lately about the spectacularly horrifying prospect of the blank page, and the psychological effects this vast tract of white space has on writers. Nothing de-motivates quite like it. The sheer endless possibility that beckons, that tempts, that edges so tantalizingly close to apprehension and yet remains so frustratingly far away.

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Uh …

Everyone has their own system for overcoming the expansive emptiness of the yet-to-be-filled page. For what it’s worth, one trick that has always seemed to work well for me is to sketch out my thoughts in bullet point, using a kind of free-form, stream of consciousness approach to the topic. I’d need a psychologist (preferably one with infinite patience and a strong stomach) to ascertain the reasons for this. If I had to guess, though, I’d say the reason for the effectiveness of this strategy is that the low-risk idea of jotting notes down on a page tricks my right-hemispheric region into dropping its defenses, and coaxes it out of its den to see what all the moderate fuss seems to be about.

Right Hemi: “Say … what’s going on out here?”

Strategic Me: “Hmm? Oh, nothing, nothing. We’re scribbling, trying to pass the time. Why?”

RH: “No reason. I just heard something and thought I’d see … wait, what’s that say?”

SM (Feigning ignorance): “You like it? I think it’s a pretty clever turn of phrase, don’t you?”

RH (Sitting down): “No, no, no – you’re mixing metaphors. Can I see that pen for a minute?”

The next time you’re stuck with a blank page, see if a similar trick works for you. It’s amazing what a little internal deception can do for the struggling writer.

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