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January 12, 2014

That Dreadful, Dreaded Blank Page

Have you ever faced a blank page and wondered what to do? This unnerving experience can happen at the start of a new project or in the middle of a work-in-progress.

You ask yourself, now what? Where do I go from here? No matter what you do you just can’t seem to concentrate. I’ve offered some ideas in previous blogs, but here are more strategies to unblock yourself and get back on track.

(1) Clean out your file cabinet—sort, pitch, alphabetize. Catch up on filing. This is a time-honored activity that people other than writers have used for decades—some to avoid working and others to stimulate their thought processes. I find that spending ten or fifteen minutes looking through file folders is a good way to jump-start my writing day.

(2) Sit in on a children’s story hour at your local library. Watch the kids as they listen to the story. If that doesn’t motivate you to finish that picture-book-in-progress, nothing will.

(3) While you’re at the library, take time to browse through the kids’ magazine section. Get acquainted with the various publications aimed at today’s youngsters—other than Highlights for Children. Then, go to the magazine section for adults. Peruse old issues of Smithsonian, National Geographic, and Good Housekeeping. Even Godey’s Lady’s Book, if they have it. I’ve often found new writing ideas by doing so.

(4) Start a collection of interesting names for characters. I did so for years, writing down first and last names that intrigued me. Many were the names of long-deceased relatives of my friends. When it was time to come up with a name for the old-fashioned ghostly character in my juvenile novel, Grampa and the Ghost, I flipped through the index cards in the file box and selected the names Tallulah and Farquar.

(5) Read a good book.

(6) Read a bad book and rewrite it or one of the chapters.

(7) Write a tantalizing paragraph or two about the photo or illustration on your wall calendar.

(8) Take a writing course online or through your community college or by correspondence, such as those offered by the Institute of Children’s Literature. That way, the instructor will hold you responsible for producing.

(9) Go on a shopping spree—for writer’s supplies: pens, notebooks, index cards, ink cartridges.

(10) Intimidated by that blank computer screen? Begin your writing efforts on a user-friendly tablet instead, perhaps in a soothing color like lavender or peach.

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