It’s big. It’s empty. It’s the blank page… and it needs to be slayed.
In many ways, conquering the blank page is the hardest part of writing. You’ve got an idea, you’ve conjured scenes and feelings, you’ve even cast your lead. And yet…how to begin…
But don’t worry! Here are four things you can do to get those pages filled up.
Hold Space for Your Writing
Maybe you have a writing desk. Maybe you sit outside at a coffee shop. Maybe you’re like me and you can write anywhere as long as you have a hot cup of tea. Whatever the environment is, set it up and guard it at all costs. Keep it tidy. Turn off notifications. Hire a babysitter and/or dog walker. Get to your space. Throw salt over your shoulder. And open that blank page.
Set a Timer
I tend to enjoy a one-hour writing sprint. If that feels like too much, start with thirty minutes. I usually find that no matter how hard I resist writing, as soon as I actually sit down to do it, I can arrive in my flow state in no time.
“Flow” is a psychological term referring to the state our brains arrive in where we become completely absorbed in a task. Time seems to fade away. Our senses and concentration are heightened. Action and focus sync to create momentum.
It’s entirely satisfying and it’s healthy for our brains, especially when you are in flow with something you are passionate about.
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Try a Creative Exercise
If you’re not quite sure where to start, take away the pressure and give yourself the freedom for a few experimental starts. Write out the first page of your screenplay in the style of a favorite screenplay. The Script Lab lists seven different examples such as opening with a quote, a visual, or sound over black. How would your story begin if you started with a flashback?
Actually write out these exercises to get your creative juices flowing. It helps to know that you’re going to abandon most — if not all — of them. There are no stakes. There’s just creative exploration.
Who knows — you might start to see your story from a different angle you hadn’t considered before. That spark can jumpstart your writing.
Strengthen Your Outline
If you’re still struggling to begin, it’s possible you’re not quite ready. Go back to your outline (you did create an outline, right?*) and make it stronger. Fill it in with more details. Get specific. What exactly will happen in the opening scenes? What are some lines of dialogue? What is going on thematically? Every phase of ideation makes the project stronger and eliminates some of the unknown — and the pressure to be inventive in the moment.
*You don’t have to create an outline. You know your writing practice best. However, they will be required down the line from producers, showrunners, and studios so I strongly recommend getting into the practice.
Just begin. Just sit down and start writing. Remember, you can revise or completely trash whatever you come up with. Don’t worry about expectations — just follow your creativity.
Shannon Corbeil is a writer, actor, and filmmaker in Los Angeles with recent appearances on SEAL Team and The Rookie. An Air Force veteran, her articles have been published in Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, and Military.com. She has written and produced hundreds of digital videos with millions of views. You can read more about her on her website or come play on Instagram and Twitter!