Facing the Blank Page

I’ve been experiencing little thrills of panic lately whenever I think about sitting down to face the blank page of my journal. It’s a tendency that has seemed to grow over the last month or two. Oftentimes, I attempt to cope by sketching on the page, and these drawings usually end up taking over the entire page. So I’ve been looking out for strategies to face the blank page.


I’ve incorporated into my workshops a handful of strategies that are help deal with the anxiety of the blank page: X-ing your page before you write, music and visualization to enter a different mindset, scent-prompts, writing prompts in general. This past week, I came across a Poetry School Lucky Dip lesson by Penelope Shuttle, “Chance & the Random.”

In this short lesson, she suggests play as a technique to free the writer of blank page anxiety. The act of play harkens back to our early days when we were learning about our world through playing. When we play with words, we can enable our return to the child-like delight of creating.

Use your imagination in the early stages of writing to reveal unexpected connections, to ignite a vigor in your words and descriptions. Tell your inner editor to be silent so you can gather all the details that are in your mind, to return when you are revising.

Shuttle’s suggestion is that we answer questions playfully in that white space. The answers need not be true, but imaginative.


Let’s try it. Open you journal to a blank page and answer one of these questions (or all three):

  • How can you tell when two morning doves are in love? Describe in detail the birds that you know are in love.
  • Why do bees enjoy the interior of human ear canals?
  • What is the origin of the phrase “costs an arm and a leg”?

Good luck!