Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Struggle of the Blank Page

 
"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.
"Planning 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.

9 comments:

  1. Good morning Ann, always enjoy reading your journal page, thanks for sharing...
    just maybe "GOOD NEWS" is what should be in that next story.
    Your readers will be watching and grab up that next book no matter what the subject knowing you will find the right words to make a good story..
    Paula O(kyflo130@yahoo.com)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I try to put some good news in all my stories, Paula. But there has to be some conflict news too in order to keep people reading. Thanks so much for your encouraging words.

      Delete
  2. Just wanted to send words of encouragement your way, Ann! What a blessing you are and also a blessing reading your blog. I love to read and try to write in my journal but not as consistent as I should be. I am not one of those who fills journal after journal. I did find a diary I had kept as a young girl then into my teenage years and transcribed it on my computer. What fun to remember! Just keep up the good work...when a book has Ann Gabhart as the author I know I will be reading it. Have a blessed week! Linda M.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've got a teen diary or journal too, Linda. I think it would probably be almost embarrassing to read it now - to see how very young I was and naive in so many ways. But maybe it would be fun like yours. And you see part of the pressure of the blank page is not wanting to disappoint my reading friends like you. I do appreciate your confidence in my story telling abilities.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ann, think- No Pressures- allow Ann to write what she wants to write. It easy for me to say, right? Anyway, here's a prayer going your way, for you, for whatever it is needed for.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Janie. It's nothing new to have the blank page taunt me a bit. But so far I've always managed to muddy it up with lots of words. But I appreciate the prayer. It will make the writing easier today.

      Delete
  5. Dearest Ann,
    I have strayed away from your blog for a little time, but I am back and always love reading your words. Of course, I have read all of your books and it's just hard to explain how much I love your stories and the way your write.

    Blessings to you,
    Cathy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you came back, Cathy. It's always good to know somebody is reading what I write. So glad you like the way I write. Sometimes I think nobody will ever be interested in what I write here on the blog, but then somebody like you or another reading friend will make a comment that has me smiling and wondering what I'll write about come Wednesday. :)

      Delete
    2. Thank you Ann for your words to me. How very kind of you.
      I will look forward to Wednesday.

      Blessings to you,
      Cathy

      Delete

Thanks for joining the conversation. I like hearing what you have to say. Thanks for dropping by.