Curing the Blank Plague

By , September 7, 2016

There is one primary cause of a blank page: Good ol’ irrational fear.

A blank page gives us the right to dream.”
– Gaston Bachelard

Yeah, but a nightmare is also a dream.”
– Shlomo Grossman

Some people enjoy the freedom of a blank page. There’s a clean slate. The delightful opportunity to go in any which way you so desire.

That feeling usually lasts for a few minutes, until it gradually morphs into genuine horror. And if you’re on deadline? Well, emotions reported have ranged from “strongly reconsidering life decisions” to “ life flashing before my eyes”. And panic. Lots and lots of panic.

Yes, many a hair follicle has fallen victim to the dreaded Blank Plague.

Bypassing the questionable coping methods of copywriters and creative team members on deadline, let’s focus on the symptom. There is one primary cause of a blank page: fear. We’re afraid to destroy our hard-earned reputation by putting out a poor product. We’re afraid of being laughed at. We’re afraid of being rejected.

Good ol’ irrational fear.

We know it’s unrealistic to expect a first draft to elicit a full-fledged standing ovation. We know a great product takes a lot of work. But the fear problem still persists.

So what do we do about this ever-prevalent issue?

A famous author once said: “I may not write well every day, but I can always fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank page.” This is the single best approach to solving the blank page problem.

Forget the fear for a second. Just fill up the page!

Eventually, those wheels will get-a- churnin’ and those waterfalls of wisdom will flow freely. It’s amazing how the same page can be looked at from different angles, new ideas sprouting with each review. That only happens, however, if there’s something to look at.

Sounds like straightforward, logical advice, right? But it’s actually really hard to put into practice.

After all, fear is irrational, and more logic does not equal less fear. Conquering fear requires action, not knowledge.

I would, therefore, like to share one practical exercise, which I have found to be very helpful. Create a document, preferably a Google Doc (because I hate Microsoft Word and this is my post, that’s why!) which will serve as a “creative safe-space”, of sorts. In this document, do two things, and two things only:

1. Write whatever comes to mind. Really. Just let the craziness, the off-the- wall, out-of- the- box, out-of- left-field, other-dash- spaced-cliche ideas run wild. Trust me, it works.

2. Take a creative piece you enjoy, be it an advertisement, a blog post, a few headlines, etc. and copy it word for word. Do this often enough, and you’ll start to get the hang of the style.

This isn’t a quick-fix solution. It’s a process, one that requires consistent dedication. Do it often enough, however, and the results are not long in coming.

Shlomo Grossman

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  1. I had something clever to say, but then an irrational fear of the size of the comment box, coupled with the intense scrutiny of your readers, made me rethink it.