By Lesley Brooks, Writing Studio Consultant
Often, one of the hardest parts of the writing process is getting started. Beginning a piece of writing is difficult as we, as writers, face the blank page that must be eventually filled with
-and analysis, all strung together with visible words.
The blank page is intimidating, as it not only represents the work that still needs to be accomplished but also the uncertain success of the final product. Tackling the blank page is not an easy task in any discipline, but, sometimes, thinking about the writers who came before us and the difficulties that they faced allows us to view our own writing struggles from a new perspective.
We have to remember that famous authors did not just appear out of thin air nor did they work in a vacuum. They were, like all writers, a product of the circumstances in which they lived, the society that they were a part of, and the challenges that they faced. They were also influenced by the writers that came before them, steadily building their own strengths. We must remember that before there was a Jane Austen, there came the achievements of Aphra Behn, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Eliza Haywood, and Frances Burney (among many others) slowly shaping the novel as a genre during the long Eighteenth Century. Without their contributions, how differently would the novel look today? Without the work and writings of female authors who faced societal pressure to refrain from writing (as “female authorship was widely considered to be the literary equivalent of prostitution” during the Eighteenth Century (Pettit Fantomina and Other Works 9), the novel as a genre would look drastically different today, not to mention threaten the works of later authors such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf, Harper Lee, and Alice Walker.
For these writers, the blank page became an opportunity to have a voice, to make a social commentary, and to highlight injustice.
The writings that we produce can have the same impact as the works of these authors. Like all writers in every discipline, we need to consider:
- Why do we write?
- What do we want to produce?
- And, what do we hope to shed light on or change?
Knowing the answers to these questions helps to shape the purpose, structure, and tone of our writing. These answers will, of course, evolve and change as we experience new things, face new challenges, and read more. Not every piece of writing will become a masterpiece, but every piece of writing has the potential to motivate, to convince, to highlight, and to influence. The blank page is both a challenge and an opportunity that all writers face, and it is up to you to determine how you will tackle the page.
Aims Community College’s (in Greeley, Colorado) Online Writing Lab offers some straightforward tips on “Getting Started” when we are faced with a blank page.