The blank page is a terrifying thing for a lot of people. Students everywhere dread that expanse of whiteness, the void that must be filled. Page and word minimums are haunting, leering things that fill the hearts of many with loathing. Some can spend hours staring at a blank page. Others can spend even longer coming up with ways to avoid it. As for me, well, I often do a mix of both of those things. But I have a confession.
I love blank pages.
A blank page is a clean slate, a new beginning. It’s fresh, simple, uncluttered. It is full of endless possibilities. You can put anything on that page. For some, that is what makes it so daunting. The innumerable outcomes can be overwhelming. But all that possibility—that’s the reason I love it. A blank page is a story waiting to be put into motion, an opinion about to be expressed. A blank page is a canvas about to become a masterpiece. A blank page is a love on the brink of being shared.
While many might stare at a blank page and see a dead end, I look at a blank page and see freedom. Words are freedom for me. I’ve never had the ability to express myself well when speaking out loud. I get tongue-tied and flustered and awkward. I usually give up on trying to get my point across after three or four bumbling sentences. When I write, however, it’s like I’m using a different voice. It is a different voice. My writing voice. There is a clear disconnect between my brain and my mouth. But in writing, those mixed up signals disappear and I can easily put my thoughts into words. And when I don’t like those words, I can take them back, edit them, make them more clear, concise, efficient.
Okay, so I like blank pages. What’s the big deal? The big deal is that you should too. Yes, I completely agree that some papers professors require are ridiculous. It’s hard for anyone to write 10 pages on something they’re not interested in or don’t even fully understand. Trust me, I know. But a blank page doesn’t have to be daunting or horrifying or petrifying or any other scary word.
A blank page is a challenge and an opportunity for everyone.
No matter how well you can write, staring at a blank page with absolutely no idea where to start is a common occurrence. Don’t give up or give in to the temptation to walk away and save it for later. Buckle down and just start writing. Simply put your thoughts on the page. Turn the blankness into something more. It can be messy. It doesn’t have to make sense. Just start. Free-writing, which is simply writing without stopping for a certain period of time, is the best technique I’ve learned for getting past that annoying editor in your head telling you that your words aren’t good enough. Free-writing helps establish your thoughts and sparks a sort of rhythm, giving you a sense of the direction you want to go.
Writing is a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to express yourself in a way that can edited and perfected. There is so much freedom in that. You don’t have to get it right the first time. Or the second time. Or the third time. Heck, most published writing has been through innumerable edits by the author and then even more by one or more editors. Writing is also an opportunity to express your feelings in a way that lasts. Spoken word can be recorded, but in general, with conversation that doesn’t happen. Writing, however, is a permanent conversation. It is a record of your thoughts, thoughts you found important enough to set down. Don’t waste that opportunity.
So the next time you are faced with a blank page, don’t let it conquer you. Maybe you will never love it. That’s okay, I understand. I will never love chemistry or physics (sorry, science majors). But I challenge you to look at a blank page a little differently. Not as a nuisance or chore or endless struggle, but as a challenge to be overcome. Use it as an opportunity to express yourself, to share your knowledge and your love of something.