I can’t think of anything harder to face than the overwhelming emptiness of the blank page. After battling with a particularly tricky chapter draft I’ve needed to come back to the beginning, and the beginning is terrifying.
Of course, a blank page doesn’t mean starting again in my mind – my head still contains all of the ideas, struggles, and information that I’ve gained through the last year I’ve been writing. There are also a couple of hundred notes, tagged and ready in Evernote, and 30,000 words of a previous draft. Both of these things are waiting to fill up the page before me.
Yet, I delay.
I don’t want to spoil the pristine page. At the moment it is full of potential but when I begin to type I am closing off avenues of thought, avenues that might be better than the one I choose.
I also don’t want to deal with the weighty draft from before: it’s too big, too messy, too much. But I need to. I need to start breaking it down, unpicking the careful hours of writing and re-sewing my argument. This is the most painful part of the writing process: the redraft. The blank page of the new document is scary, yes, but it’s also hopeful. Staring at a load of work you thought was done, but isn’t, is simply demoralising.
I search the internet for writing advice. I pour over blogs on how to complete your thesis. I procrastinate by setting up Scrivener workflows and choosing fonts. However, none of this helps. The remedy for both the blank page and the difficult second draft is the same: start writing. Nothing will change unless you start.