The Blank Page

The scariest thing about doing this writing thing is always the blank page. Whether it is a blog or a mailing list email or a short story or a novel or a comic script…

Every movie or tv show you’ve ever seen has the wadded up pages scattered along the floor near the wastebasket (never in it unless it is completely overfilled… a very all or nothing scenario I suppose). But that image is what’s going on in your brain the whole time. A metaphorical throwing away of the pages.

The white page/screen stares you down. It dares you to try and fashion something coherent. It annoys you with its stark nature. Mocks you into thinking you won’t be able to write the THING. Whatever that THING happens to be this time. It reflects that not-so-little voice inside us which trys to remind us we are frauds. Why would anyone bother reading anything you’ve written?

To start a new THING is a bold and scary thing. Even the act of hitting that NEW button of your writing software. The very act which summons your ancient enemy. It’s all a part of the process.

But push past that initial fear and there is an odd freedom to what lay before you. I mean a blank screen can also represent something completely unknown to you in the moment, but it is also a promise of something to come. True endless possibilities. The opportunity to write and discover the secrets you’re unearthing.

That, too, comes with obstacles. Just because you’ve started and managed to get some words on the screen, doesn’t mean you have accomplished your goal. The thing is, ideas can be squirelly to nail down. I have folders of partially written blogs and short stories where I got off to very strong starts. Thousands of words littered across the pages. The characters becoming more and more real with each line of dialogue or discription. Then it just stops. It becomes a slog. You’ve lost the thread. You go back and read what you’ve written and begin to have the doubts again. You can’t abandon all this work, but you know it isn’t going anywhere either.

Click Save and move on. It’ll remain unfinished.

Or will it? Maybe that start is all you needed? Maybe you can come back to it? Maybe you can harvest that THING for use in another THING? Maybe it can be the inspiration for something even bigger and better?

Maybe… maybe… maybe…

Sometimes all you need is a little kick in the rear in order to get going. Most of the time I search for inspiration in any place I can think of. I have the habit of writing ideas, bits of dialogue, random notes or what have you on pieces of scrap paper.  Because the truth is you don’t know when the next bit will happen. The story well may have run dry for a while, but all it takes is one little bit of light to shatter the darkness you find youself in.

That’s the key. You have to allow yourself to dream. To mentally go down wrong pathways before you can discover the true nature of the THING.


John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at

About John McGuire

Writer of comics and novels. In 2006 his first short story "The God That Failed" was published by Terminus Media in their debut comic Evolution Book 1. Since that time he has had stories published in Terminus Media's Evolution Book 2 and Evolution Special, Kenzer and Company's The Knights of the Dinner Table, and Four J Publishing's The Burner #3. Currently he is eagerly awaiting the digital publishing of his first creator-owned comic The Gilded Age #1 to be published online as well as his first novel The Dark That Follows later this year.
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