There’s that moment when you open a new document and it’s just so blank. I hate a blank page. It turns me into Jack Nicholson in The Shining. People have different opinions, and there’s always that writer friend who just loves to start a new story. They make noises about it, sniff the blank page and roll their eyes back in their heads with pleasure. They feel joy. Seriously, I’m not making this up. They will tell you they are full of anticipation and talk about the new story with this sense of freedom and energy that is a pure mystery to me. They like it. Which basically is a sure sign of psychopathy or something, in my opinion. They actually enjoy the lack of restrictions. I have a suspicion these are the same people who like to do things like jump out of planes or sing karaoke.
A couple of weeks ago, I turned in a full draft of a novel I’ve been working on for five years and now I’m waiting for my agent’s feedback. What to do after my mind has been busy weaving this one story for so long? What to do while I wait on the verdict from my no-nonsense agent? Well, every writer knows the answer. You write the next thing. And don’t get me wrong, I have a little stash of next things I’ve been looking forward to getting started on, so this should be easy, right? Fun? But the reality looks a little different for me. Here’s how it’s been going.
I cleaned out my desk.
I moved my desk.
I cleaned off my inspiration board.
I made Pinterest boards.
I printed pictures and pinned them to the new inspiration board.
I took pictures of my new inspiration board and new desk space and posted them to Instagram.
I made an Excel document for my new something-like-an-outline.
And then, I wrote a full two chapters!! Success, right? Take THAT, blank page!
Then, I started to stress. The writing stalled. I started obsessing over that other manuscript that I’d sent off to my agent, thinking she was probably smoking a metaphorical cigarette and trying to figure out how to tell me the work was a complete waste. I started having nightmares. Anxiety dreams where my teeth fell out. So, I decided to stop thinking about my work and start thinking about other people’s work. I offered to Beta read for a couple of extremely talented author friends and suddenly, I realized three thousand mistakes in the manuscript that is already gone, gone, gone! I also decided the new ideas and chapters I’d scribbled out were all flawed and flat and without promise at all. Gloom, despair and agony on me!
If you’re thinking right about now that I’m one of those whiny, published authors who really ought to just go eat worms, I agree with you. Because really to be published at all in this lifetime is sort of a miracle - at least I think so. I am being whiny. But it’s not my fault! I am normally a very rational person. I’m a hard worker. I’m organized and pragmatic. I celebrate creativity and take my rest and daydream when I feel compelled and I don’t even sweat it like it’s wasted time. I am balanced, damn it. It’s that blank page! Want to know why? Because it’s NOT A PAGE!
It’s a mirror.
I’m not going to tell you to make friends with your blank page. I think it’s like jumping out of planes or karaoke – you can’t force yourself to enjoy it. But I will tell you that the blank page will bring out the truth of you, one way or another. For me, it exposes that I am an anxious writer. I expect a lot of myself and facing the unwritten words that could make or break my future as an author can really unravel my sanity. What I’m learning is that although the mirror of the blank page may reflect the truth, it can’t make me see it. I see what I want to see, like we all do. So, I decided this week to work on my perspective, to stop comparing myself and my stories, to quit making up doomsday scenarios in my head, to read something for pleasure, and to remember why I sent that manuscript off to my agent in the first place: because I love that book and I know some reader, some place, will, too.
If you’re facing the blank page, try looking a little deeper and more honestly, beyond the pale glare until you can see what’s truly being reflected back. And then, don’t be afraid to see what’s got you hating that starting place. You might be surprised. You don’t have to leap. You don’t have to sing one note. Take it from me – and Jack, the dull boy - you just have to get past yourself to the story.
How about you? Do you actually like beginnings? Any tips for those who don't?
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Kimberly Brock is the award winning author of the #1 Amazon bestseller, THE RIVER WITCH (Bell Bridge Books, 2012). A former actor and special needs educator, Kimberly is the recipient of the Georgia Author of the Year 2013 Award. A literary work reminiscent of celebrated southern author Carson McCullers, THE RIVER WITCH has been chosen by two national book clubs.
Kimberly’s writing has appeared in anthologies, blogs and magazines, including Writer Unboxed and Psychology Today. Kimberly served as the Blog Network Coordinator for She Reads, a national online book club from 2012 to 2014, actively spearheading several women’s literacy efforts. She lectures and leads workshops on the inherent power in telling our stories and is founder of Tinderbox Writer’s Workshop. She is also owner of Kimberly Brock Pilates.
She lives in the foothills of north Atlanta with her husband and three children, where she is at work on her next novel. Visit her website at kimberlybrockbooks.com for more information and to find her blog.