A Scary Blank Journal or Page

Wednesday, January 27, 2016
One of my friends wants to journal this year, but the blank journal is giving her trouble. She doesn't know how to start. Should she just write: "Uh, hi, it's me"? Or should she have something profound to start with?

This is a problem many people have--with journals, with manuscripts, with anything they are trying to start. It's difficult to know where to begin. Actually, sometimes, it's just hard to begin.

Several of us on a group Facebook message gave my friend some suggestions to get started. I decided these suggestions might help some of us get started on journaling or even a manuscript we are stuck on.

If you are currently staring at a blank page:

1. Write about a great thing/event that just happened.
Our friend had been on a vacation in Florida. She had a great time, and one of the suggestions was to begin writing in the journal about a fun experience she had on the trip. I thought that was an amazing idea. I think sometimes we believe we have to write something profound when we start--the perfect entry, some deep thought, the best first sentence ever. But we don't. We just have to start. And why not start with a great memory. Wouldn't it be great to open the journal every day and see a great memory? With a manuscript, write a happy part of the book or a part where the action has slowed down. You don't have to go in order. If a particular scene is giving you trouble, skip it. You can always go back.

2. Make lists.
When I feel overwhelmed with a blank page, I like to make a list. In a journal, it could be a list of anything--goals for the month, TV shows that make you relax, books you want to read, places you want to visit--you get the idea. A list is sometimes more manageable for our brains than pages and pages of prose in our best handwriting. If you are stuck on a manuscript, a list will also work. Create a list of things your character could do next or a list of personality traits and how you will portray those in your book. If your right brain seems to be on hold, sometimes your left brain needs to take over somewhat and jump start the right--a list is perfect for this.

3. Don't use words at all.  
Words are not always needed to convey ideas--we all know that. And even if you are a writer, you don't have to have words to express yourself. Use pictures or photos or drawings. I suggested to my friend to cut photos out of a magazine of things she likes and glue those into her journal--then the journal isn't blank, and it might inspire her to write something. I have seen writers do this with their characters, too. Sometimes, they have a notebook where they draw or cut out photos of things their characters like or their characters' appearance. Pinterest also works for this--writers have boards dedicated to their characters. If words aren't coming to you and you are still feeling creative, use pictures. The words will come back.

If these three suggestions don't work or you are looking for some resources for journaling, check out WOW!'s good friend, Mari L. McCarthy's website, Create Write Now. She has some amazing resources for journaling and her own journaling story is also amazing! She basically used journaling to heal Multiple Sclerosis.

Don't be scared of that blank page. It only has that power as long as you leave it blank. Heck, you could even write: I'm not scared of you! Watch out! Here's what I have to say: 

Happy writing!

Margo L. Dill is a children's and YA author and writing instructor for WOW! Women On Writing. Find out more at http://www.margodill.com .

Photo above by Matt Roberts on Flickr.com


Marcia Peterson said...

Another fun idea is to go on Pinterest. You can search "journal prompts," "art journal," etc. Lots of inspiration and ideas to go you going!

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