Children gaze at a vast blank wall and see opportunity—inspired, they grab a permanent marker and scrawl across the surface in loopy circles and jaggedy lines without hesitation.
Why, then, do we adults stare at the blank page—not unlike a blank wall—and freeze up? Instead of scribbling out ideas that fill the white screen, we writers often come up empty, the blank page producing a blank mind.
We get too far ahead of ourselves, thinking about readers before we’ve written a single word, afraid of what they’ll think. Or we second-guess our ideas or skills. We worry about that and more, and next thing you know…we stop writing and stare at that blinding white abyss, paralyzed.
The blank page need not intimidate or cripple us. Why? Because with the ideas below, you can fill that great expanse with words so that it’s never really blank when you open it.
Try one of them the next time you open a document and feel fear trickling down to your fingertips. I hope they’ll free you up long before you freeze and you’ll replace fear with joy by effortlessly filling the page with words.
Create templates for your content, whether it’s a newsletter, blog post, or podcast. By inserting the structural elements you tend to use each time, you approach the page with a sense of familiarity. Templates serve as a framework to jumpstart your writing process, making the page feel less daunting.
Embrace the power of outlines. The classic 5-paragraph essay structure you learned long ago—with an introduction, three main points, and conclusion—is a reliable starting point for informative articles. For more creative pieces, try narrative outlines with a three-act structure (even if it’s short) or a beginning, middle, end approach. Outlines help you organize your thoughts and create a roadmap for your writing, banishing the fear of the blank page. See the links below for ready-made outlines you can use to add structure to your document.
3. Record Yourself & Transcribe
Take a walk and record your thoughts about the topic you want to write about. Then, get a transcription made of that recording and paste it in—you’ve eliminated the blank page altogether. It’s as if you’re simply editing and expanding on (and refining) your existing thoughts, which is far less intimidating than starting from scratch with nothing but a blank page and blinking cursor.
4. Record a Conversation & Transcribe
Meet with a friend on a virtual platform like Zoom, click the record button, and explain your idea. As your friend engages with questions, you’ll be able to clarify and delve deeper. This approach captures your natural voice as you share what you’ve been researching and thinking about. Thank your friend, download the audio, and then use a program like Happy Scribe or Rev.com’s AI transcription service to transcribe the conversation. You’ll end up with a working draft for your writing project. TIP: more and more free AI transcription services are cropping up, so be sure to search for the latest options and you might not even have to pay.
5. Pull from Your Journal
If you’ve been jotting down ideas, thoughts, or snippets of writing in a journal or a similar document, don’t let them go to waste. Pull something from there and paste it into your current document to kickstart your writing. Things like Morning Pages, Dream Journals, and freewriting can be sources of inspiration.
6. List Bullet Points
Before you even have a minute to think about the blank page, start writing your ideas in the form of bullet points—they don’t have to be complete thoughts or sentences. No more blank page! And you’ll have prompts you can use to draft your content. You can expand on each bullet point to develop your ideas further, gradually filling the blank page with meaningful content. Move them around until you find the ideal flow and structure. Problem solved.
7. AI Writing Apps
If you’re open to experimentation, consider using an AI writing app. These tools can generate ideas and even provide outlines based on your input. While they may not perfectly replicate your voice, they can jumpstart your creativity and offer valuable suggestions—maybe even a rough draft you can work with—reducing the intimidation factor of a blank page. Manage your expectations, though, because it may take a long time before it comes close to matching your style and writing voice. Use it as a starting point before making the final project sound like you.
Beat the Blank Page & Write with Confidence
With these fill-the-page strategies, you can conquer the blank page and approach your writing with confidence and creativity. Each method makes the page less daunting, so you can seize the opportunity and make your mark on the world with your words, scribbled with joy.
Try one of these ideas this week and let me know how well it works for you!
- Ready-made outline: Problem-Solution (this articles shows how you can apply this outline to different projects, including opinion pieces, blog posts, and nonfiction books)
- Ready-made outline: Past-Present-Future (this article makes an argument for outlining; scroll down for applications of this outline)
- Ready-made outline: Zoom In / Zoom Out
Join us in Your Platform Matters (YPM)
YPM is a warm and welcoming membership community committed to creative, meaningful ways we can grow our platform and reach readers—check us out!