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Overcoming Page Fright
Dara Girard : 5 Steps to Overcoming Page Fright

5 Steps to Overcoming Page Fright

By Dara Girard

The blank page or screen puts terror in the hearts of many writers. I attack the page quickly so that the fear doesn't have a chance to settle, but I've met others who can sit for hours paralyzed with fear. I don't want that to be you, so here are some tips:

1. Lower your expectations

Many writers are not the best judge of their work. When they look at it, all they see is crap. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. But that's not for a writer to judge at the beginning. Her job is to write. Don't compare yourself to anyone. That's the fastest way to stay in paralyzing page fright. Just start writing. Anything. It doesn't have to be brilliant or even good. Some writers can create excellent first drafts that are immediately publishable. Others don't. Both get published eventually. So don't worry about who will read it and what they will think. Just get something down on the page or screen, you can edit later.

2. Play

Have fun! Writing does not have to be drudgery. Lewis Carroll and Dr. Seuss knew the magic of words. They played on the page creating nonsensical words, rhymes and images. Pretend, dream, take flight on the page. It doesn't have to make sense. Take the title of a song or poem and expand on it. For example: Mary had a little lamb…with a glass of red wine while talking to her girlfriends about the mean girls at school. Come up with your own words. Use a noun as a verb and vice versa. It worked for Shakespeare. Give yourself permission to do whatever you want without censure. Far too many writers, especially beginners, try to find 'rules' to guide them and in the process become paralyzed. Most writers learn the craft of writing by reading (books they enjoy) and writing.

3. Daydream

Imagine yourself writing with ease. Nothing stands in your way. Pretend that what you are going to write will be wonderful. What would it be? Jot it down. Remember, this is make-believe, you can't fail. Feel the calm and confidence as you write — you're amazing. The world eagerly awaits your next creation.

4. Exercise

A sluggish body sometimes produces a sluggish mind. Go for a walk. Dance. Run. Get the body moving; the oxygen flowing and blood pumping! The actual act of writing is usually a sedentary one (unless you're like some and write while standing up). You must realize that you're a ball of creative energy that needs an outlet. You need to move.

5. Quit

Yes, that's right. Quit. Stop. Give up. Surrender. If the words won't come, it's okay to walk away. Perhaps you were meant for something else. No one is forcing you to write. In the words of Julian Barnes "It's easy after all, not to be a writer. Most people aren't writers, and very little harm comes to them." Many myths exist about successful writers being disciplined. Baloney. They write because they like to. In public they may complain and whine about their struggles with thoughts and idea (because writers after all are storytellers), but in private they soar on the page. I'm not saying that it's not difficult sometimes, but it's not hell either. Just like a singer sings and a dancer dances, a writer writes. It's that simple. You do what you love. Or you don't.

If you can stop, go ahead. But if the suggestion I've made burns at you, makes you sputter with outrage and want to scream, 'But I can't stop! I have to write' then prove it…write now… •

© 2010 Dara Girard. All rights reserved.

Dara Girard is the award winning, multi-published author of The Writer Behind the Words: Steps to Success in the Writing Life. More »

Updated 1/5/14