Freelance Journalist, Editor, Copywriter and Author – Dubai

The Blank Page

As a writer, nothing is scarier than a blank page.

It’s petrifying and it’s overwhelming. You’re staring at a big unknown, devoid of anything. The cursor is blinking, waiting for you to type something. Anything. And the longer you sit and stare at the white page, the more overwhelming it becomes. You stare long and hard, wondering why you have to start a whole new story when you’ve just finished another one. You wonder if you have the strength to start over again. You wonder and you wonder and you freeze in the process.

You sit in a coffee shop, numb, waiting for the words to come. People come and go; some see you, some smile, some disregard you completely. And you sit longer, and drink coffee, and browse through Facebook for hours, and you wait and wait for the words to appear.

What do I write about? What’s the storyline? Who are the protagonists? Whom do I let in and whom do I let go of? Where is the story set? How do I build a whole new world from scratch? What direction do I take it in? Will the story have a happy ending, or will it come to a tragic conclusion? Is it story of optimism, or a story of cynicism? What’s the tone? What life lessons can I incorporate? What’s the story arc? What will inspire me to write? Will I allow my experiences to mar the outcome? Or will it be a story of strength and growth and happiness?

And you ponder and you ponder, and the cursor stares at you, blinking. Waiting. You sit and you stare into space, trying to dream up a new beginning, a new storyline, a new setting. And you think some more, and you feel overwhelmed, but the blank page keeps drawing you back to it. It’s there waiting for you to type. It’s there waiting for you to rebuild. Because that’s what you do. You’re a writer; you build new worlds once old ones have come to a conclusion.

You momentarily wonder if you can go through it all again. The typing. The endless struggles. The writer’s block. The hours of typing gibberish and the subsequent rewrites. The edits. The reedits. The uncertainty. The moments of self-doubt. The moments of self-hate. The weaknesses that it brings up. The moments when you cannot face your laptop.

You hide for a while. You pretend that there is no blank page. You meet friends. You watch rubbish TV. You drink more coffee, and sometimes something that’s a little stronger. You deny the need to write. You sit and watch people pass by. You take long walks. You wish the days away.

And then one day you realise the page is calling you again. You remember the times that writing felt good. When a sentence that sounded magical came together. When words that were dripping with meaning hit the page. When a character made a breakthrough. When happiness prevailed despite it all. When the words were so sweet that they made you smile. When things came together so nicely that it felt like anything and everything was possible.

And you remember who you are. The inner strength that you have, and how much you’ve written and been through to get to where you are now. And you realise that you cannot leave the page blank. You must build a new world. You must get back to what you do best.

You sit down, and you see the blank page again, and suddenly it doesn’t feel as overwhelming as it did at the start. The cursor is blinking, and yet now all you can feel is a prevailing sense of hope over the anxiety and over the fear.

You get comfortable in your seat. You pull your shoulders back, lift your head high. And you start typing again. The words come out awkwardly at first. Typing feels odd and you feel rusty. But you carry on typing, a little at a time. And you feel your strength start to come back to your fingertips. And, bit by bit, things start to make sense on paper. One word at a time, it becomes easier. And then before you know it, you’re making magic again, you’re on your way. The story starts to come together. And it’s a story full of hope and meaning.

And then you’re thankful. You’re thankful for having the strength to face it again. You’re thankful to yourself for not giving up. You’re thankful for at least having the opportunity to build a magical new story.

You’re thankful for making yourself face the blank page again.

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