The Struggle of the Blank Page

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal


“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”  (Margaret Atwood)

I’m struggling to write a story now. I love to write. I
have always wanted to write. I have always been writing something since I was
ten years old and maybe before. I like the feel of a pen in my hand, a
notebook open in front of me. I like my fingers perched over a keyboard ready
to record whatever words pop into my head. I like filling the blank page. And
yet, I often struggle to write. I put it off. I delay the hard work of getting
the words of a story out of my head and onto this blank screen.

I don’t struggle to write here in my on-line journal. These words
come easy. I grab a picture off my phone or out of my photo files and write
something that matches. Or not, as it turns out tonight. This picture is just
one I really like and that I took last spring when the tree was blooming. That
doesn’t have much to do with the struggle to write a book. But then, maybe it
does. Maybe that’s what a writer needs – the seed of an idea that buds out into
words that bloom into scenes on branches that lead back to the entire story or trunk
of the tree and down into the roots of what the story is really about. Now that
was reaching, wasn’t it?

Ah, but pulling those words out of my head is what I’ve
always done. I do my best to make my characters get up off the black and white
page of my imagination and explode out into the colorful pages, alive and ready
to live their stories. Then comes the worry that the story is not going to be
right. That’s a worry I have had to overcome with nearly every book I’ve ever
written. Somewhere between the excitement of typing Chapter 1 and finally
finding the end, I nearly always hit a slippery spot
where the doubts bombard me and make me lose my confidence in the story. Then
it’s good to remember what James Thurber said. “Don’t get it right, just get it written.”

I can’t make anything better until I have it written. And
after writing dozens of books, I know I’ve done it before and that perhaps,
just perhaps, I’ll be able to do it again. I’ll be able to tell the story I set
out to tell. Or if not that one, the one my characters reveal to me along the
story road.

Here’s more great writing advice from Barbara Kingsolver. “Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”

I tell myself now that my problem is time. My problem has
always been time. Every writer struggles for the time to block away their
everyday world of chores and duties to go off into their fictional world. And
then to use that time wisely. It’s easier to read. Every writer needs to
read. It’s easier to write in a journal. Every writer needs to organize his
thoughts and keep in touch with her inner self. It’s easier to check messages
or post on Facebook and all writers want to connect with their readers.

But here is the advice I’m going to have to keep in mind
in the next few weeks as I look at a deadline headed my way with life pulling
at me on every side.
to write is not writing. Outlining–researching–talking to people about what
you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.”
(E. L. Doctorow)

And writing is what I’m going to do. As soon as I get this blog post finished – and check my messages – and…

Thanks for
reading. I so appreciate each and every one of you who read this and those of
you who take the time to leave a comment. For those of you curious about my
post on Facebook that went viral, it has gotten over a million likes and nearly
12 million views. I have been moved by the many people who have wanted to
celebrate with this one child who has defeated cancer. Many have shared their
own fights against cancer or those of others in their families. I’ve scanned
hundreds of the comments and have been impressed with the joyfulness of the
comments. I’ve only seen two or three that were in any way negative. People are
ready to hear good news.