I'm sitting here talking to my computer preparing this blog post and watching my timer go down wondering how am I going to talk about overcoming the blank page. Why is it so hard to write something down or draw something on a blank page? Are we afraid to mess up? Are we afraid that what we create has to be good or it at least better than the last thing that we made? Or do we just not know where or how to get started? For me, it can be a bit of all those things. I’ve wanted to make sure that I say the right thing or that the first line I put on a page leads me in the best direction for making the best drawing ever.
Over the last couple years, I've learned more and more not to worry about being perfect. These days when I sit down to draw I usually start out with a warm-up exercise. I like to start out by drawing a bunch of lines and shapes at different angles and perspectives, then go to one of my favorite figure drawing websites and do 30 or 90-second figure drawing sketches. after that I go back and look at the ones I like the most and turn that into something. Writing is a bit different. When I'm writing I usually make an outline before I get started so that I have an idea where I'm going. However, today is a bit of an exception. I picked a topic from a list of in my bullet journal and I’m following a prompt to use dictation software instead of manually writing or typing. If you already use dictation software it’s probably nothing special to you but I think it's pretty cool. I'm sitting here watching the words appear on the screen as I'm speaking. I’m sure most of can relate when it comes to overcoming the blank page so I want to make a list of ways that I’ve found helpful.
The first way to get something on the page is to give yourself a prompt or find a prompt list online. This will allow you to stop focusing on what to draw or what to write about. Make can your own list of predetermined topics or guidelines for what you want to work on. Doing this will give you the opportunity to do some prep work if you want too. You can write an outline or find reference images for inspiration.
- Making Comics Daily Challenges
- Character Design Challenge (Monthly Themed Challenges)
- The 100 Days Project
- Art Prompts
- Think Written: 365 Creative Writing Prompts
- Life Hack: 10 Tricks To Get Started Writing
Thinking of the blank page as a warm up session can help ease you into a creative flow. Think of it as an athlete warming up to play a sport, you need to loosen up your creative muscles to you can get into the flow. Also, don't worry about making your next masterpiece, something for your portfolio, or social media. Don't worry about it being polished at all. You could even start out by scribbling shapes on the page or free writing. Scribbling lines and shapes on a page used to be my favorite thing way to get started. I would connect the intersecting lines and eventually, something started to take shape. I feel like I allowed my experience studying graphic design at university to increase my perfectionist tendencies, slowly they started to take over the more whimsical side of my creativity. When that happens it's pretty easy to find yourself not experiencing the same joy that you got from doing creative activities. That's why it's important to have a side project where you can try out new things rather than only being stuck in restrictions of a brands style guide.
Another thing that could be holding you back from filling out that blank page is distractions. Maybe the approach you take to starting your work is distracting you or your cluttered desk is begging you to clean it. Or you’re trying to do too many things at the same time. I know some people are more creative when they have background noise or music. Maybe you think you're one of those people but you are actually the person that ends up binge watching a show on Netflix with your sketch pad in your lap going unused. You need to be honest with yourself and make changes to the environment you create in.
When it comes to distractions
one of the most effective things you can do is eliminate
as many of them as you possibly can.
Eliminating distractions could be scheduling a set time to work on your writing or drawing. Sometimes it means letting people know that you need time to work on something and to politely ask them to not distract you during that set time. While other times it means not letting yourself get distracted. For example, that could mean turning off your internet so that you cannot go on social media platforms. Or instead of listening to your favorite band's new album you listen to ambient music so that way you're not focusing on the new lyrics and instrumentation. Alternatively, sometimes that distraction can be exactly what you need. The distraction of new music or listening to a podcast could distract you from being too focused on what you're doing. When you’re comfortable and in a good mood you might stumble onto something unique rather than being completely focused on this one thing and trying to zero in on making a great thing. Distraction can be a tool or hindrance on your productivity. If you don’t know what works best for you, think about what has worked for you in the past. Try out those things and evaluate the results. Get to know yourself and how you create most effectively.
Develop a Process or Routine
In addition to what the methods I've already touched on, developing a routine or a process is can help you overcome the blank page. When you have a process or routine it will guide you through the steps of overcoming the blank page more effectively a regular basis. A part of that process could be giving yourself restrictions like a deadline or time-limit or no erasing or backspacing on the first draft. When it comes to a process or routine it's important to have it written down somewhere. This will bring clarity to what you think your process is. That clarity will also help you to evaluate what's working and what isn't so that you can improve your process.
Make Deposits Into Your Creative Bank Account
Having a Creative Bank Account will provide you with a place to pull inspiration from when you sit down to a blank page. How do you make deposits into your creative bank account?
Jake Parker made this awesome video, Your Creative Bank Account, that gave a name to something that I had been doing since I was in grade school drawing monsters and designing fictitious skateboard graphics.
When you go to the store, whenever you're with family and friends or on the internet you have an opportunity be observing things around, noticing people, how they interact with one another. Pay attention to their mannerisms their clothing and the patterns in their clothes. When you're on your computer or smartphone you could be on Pinterest, deviantART or Artstation looking at art inspires you. You can take inspiration from the art itself, the line qualities an artist uses, or their use color and shapes, there are so many things that make up a composition. You could even be inspired by the way characters interact or the overall placement of elements in the composition. Study the work and try to understand why you like the things you like about it and experiment with incorporating some of those elements into your own art. The same thing goes for writing. You can find inspiration in life, art, and the writing of authors and journalist that you admire.
At the end of the day, it's important to have fun and remember why you’re passionate about what you’re doing because it will help you navigate through the difficult times whether you’re feeling stuck or on the cusp of a breakthrough.
Those are just some of the methods I’ve learned and found helpful when staring at a blank page too. Most days they work well, however, some days you really just need to take a break from everything and get away for a moment. It can be as simple as going for a walk, taking a power nap or even taking the whole day off to relax and recharge.
If you have other methods you’ve found effective
please share them below. I’d love to hear them.