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The power of a blank page

As a writer, staring at a blank piece of paper is one of the most exciting—and also one of the most terrifying—parts of my day. On one hand, a blank page means we have the opportunity to fill it with life-changing, inspiring words or drawings. On the other hand, it can quickly intimidate us. Just how will we make meaning out of nothing? How do we get started?

When I was in high school, my writing teacher taught us that in order to get started on a great piece—be it an essay, a blog post, or the next great American novel—we’ve got to get it all out on paper. She called the first draft of any piece of writing “Puke on Paper.” And sometimes, that’s exactly what it looks like. But that’s exactly the power of a blank page: Being able to turn “puke on paper” into a work of art. How many people are able to say that?

When it comes to filling your blank page, start by writing out every idea you can think of. Even the “bad” ones. Tell yourself bad ideas don’t exist—and start running (or writing, rather). As you put pen to paper, or cursor to screen, challenge yourself to see how many ways you can say the same thing. How many synonyms can you think of for a certain word? Can you write a sentence entirely in active voice? What’s the minimum number of characters you can use to get your point across? Even the most ridiculous, grammatically incorrect sentences might turn into gold later down the line. The trick is to keep writing, even when it’s challenging.

I’ve always said I love words because of the power they have to ignite change, inspire action, or change someone’s life. Words have the power to tear someone down or build them back up. They educate and inform. They dictate people’s futures. Different combinations of the same 26 letters, organized correctly on a blank page, have a tremendous amount of power over people's’ lives, and almost all of us take it for granted.

We stare at that blank page for hours, wishing the little blinking cursor would just write the words for us. We want to shout, “Fill the page for us, blinking cursor!” In this way, a blank page has tremendous power over us as writers, too. Its vast white space wills us to begin a new project. To get our feelings down on paper. To get the job done.

Nothing is more satisfying than watching that blank page fill up with small, black text. Nothing is more gratifying than reading a finished piece of work, knowing the amount of energy we poured into it. So next time you’re tasked with filling a blank page, and you open that new document and see a flood of white staring you in the face… don’t panic. You’re about to be empowered (and likely empower others along the way).

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