. Athena's Books: My Thoughts on the Blank Page Zone...and My Illusive Novels
Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Thoughts on the Blank Page Zone...and My Illusive Novels

This morning at about 5: 45 AM I was laying in bed trying to get back to sleep while my husband was out taking a early run. I figured I had another good hour of possible sleep before I really, really had to get moving for work. But my mind was on writing, and I promise I had like the entire opening paragraph to one of the many, many novel ideas I have...yes, I know...the illusive novels I always say I'm gonna write.

Anyways...it starts like this:
Some say I destroyed an entire civilization.And it ends with:I've loved two. One for politics. One for desire. Both betrayed for the same reasons, and now neither rules my heart.

The northern gate to my homeland is closed. I live in death. Not the physical, but the one where the spirit sleeps and no one knows me.
And the middle?
It's somewhere in the abyss of my half awake-half asleep brain. Ugh! For the life of me I can't remember all the eloquent prose Sofia spoke to me.

Who is Sofia anyway...for those of you actually read my posts, you may remember some mother-long historical epic screenplay I wrote once for a graduate class. That's where she's from, but after about a year break from Sofia and her two men (Masinissa and Safix) and the ruin of Carthage at the hands of Rome, I think I am ready to revisit the whole thing. But I want to get the whole re-hashing of actual history (because Sofia/Sophonisba and Masinissa and Safix are real people dating back to ancient Carthage) out of the, and create some other world with other names and make this whole thing a fantasy/ maybe steam-punk novel. At least I have all the dialogue...I just have to make paragraphs now...

Anyways, back to the topic.

Why do brilliant ideas come to you when you don't have a paper and pen? And why is that when I have paper and pen or a laptop that my brain is sometimes zapped into the dreaded blank page zone? What's the solution to zapped brain? Well, I know the answer is writing and it really does work.

Here is an article I found on the Genreality website talking about the exact same thing. You can read most of it here, but I did cut out some parts for length:

From Genreality websiteBlank Pages and Open Roads
I always think of ideas in the shower...

But I also get ideas while driving my car...

I really think it comes down to this: In the shower and in the car are two places where I don’t have a pencil and paper.

Yeah, it’s Murphy’s Law. But I also think that there’s no pressure in the shower or the car. No performance anxiety, because you don’t have a pen or a computer. You just have your brain and time on your hands.

Sometimes when I sit at the computer, confronted with a blank screen, my mind goes blank. Whatever idea I had in the car on the way home from Starbucks vanishes. Or the whole scene I envisioned dwindles to two uninspired sentences...

The best response to this is not to go open a bag of Doritos and watch a couple of episodes of Supernatural for “inspiration.” It’s to do what I always told my acting students when we’d be doing an improvisation class, and, confronted with a blank stage and no script (and an audience of their peers), they would lament: “But I don’t know what to say!”

Just start talking. Or in the case of writing, just start typing. Anything. Nonsense, a laundry list, what you had for breakfast...

Sometimes, you just have to fill the space so you’re not looking at a blank page. Momentum helps, too.

And it’s all a lot safer than bringing your laptop into the shower.
Back to me:

Sometime this past May, I was on a writing roll. I journaled everyday for two weeks on a legal pad during my teaching conference hour at work. Everything was not brilliant or even good, but after writing for ten minutes straight I'd get into a pretty good writing high and then dish out some very nice paragraphs on whatever fiction piece I was working on for school or for my illusive novels. It's kind of ironic that when your brain and pencil don't connect to write anything decent, that just writing about anything and getting your hand moving and possible writing crappy stuff will get you to write better stuff.

Now do the ideas and sentences that you had in the shower or car or middle of the night come back to you after a blank-page zone? In my experience no. But you will get something and it might even be better than what you had before. That's how I came up with the very last lines I wrote above from Sofia's point of view: The northern gate to my homeland is closed. I live in death. Not the physical, but the one where the spirit sleeps and no one knows me.

But I don't have the middle yet...

And maybe all that Sofia says makes for a better ending to her novel rather than a beginning as my sleepy brain told me early this morning.