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Overcoming the Blank Page

by Darla Nagel (

For many, the hardest step of writing is getting started. Maybe you have a topic, or you might not even have that. The blank page is full of possibilities—yet empty.

I’ll share four strategies for starting a piece of writing that worked for me or for writers I’ve guided. The bottom line of these strategies is just write—something!

One strategy is freewriting. Set a timer for three to five minutes. If you have a topic for the piece, think about that. Then, just write whatever comes to mind.

Don’t stop. Don’t cross words out. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. There are no writing rules in freewriting.

When time’s up, read what you wrote. Highlight or somehow mark words and phrases that seem promising. If not much looks promising, reset the timer and try again. Or, try a different strategy, such as making a word web.

To make a word web, start from the middle and work outward. In the center of a piece of paper, write the topic. If you don’t have a topic, write something like, “What topic do I pick?” Draw an oval or box around that phrase.

Next, write words or phrases that are closely related around the phrase in the center. Enclose the new phrases in ovals or boxes, and draw lines to connect them to the center. For example, if I made a word web for this blog post, I’d put something like “Starting to write” in the center. Then, I’d write the strategies I’m sharing in ovals around that.

Now, for each new phrase, write related words and phrases around it. Keep adding ideas without judging whether they’re important or not.

When you’re done, you might be looking at a visual outline of a draft. The main points will be in the center, and the supporting details will branch off from them.

Questioning is the third strategy. Ask questions of the topic that start with the words who, what, where, when, why, and how. Then, answer them all or just the ones that spark your interest. I find this strategy helpful when starting a research paper.

A fourth strategy a student taught me is finding three or more random words out of the dictionary and trying to include all of them in a sentence or two. For her, the creativity involved in working with random words made it easier to write on an assigned topic. Plus, it might help expand your vocabulary!

I hope that one or all of these strategies will work for you. The key to overcoming a blank page is to think broadly and write something without censoring yourself. Happy writing!  


  • Subject : Language Arts
  • Topic : English I, English II, English III, English IV / Advanced Placement, Creative Writing
  • Posted By : Darla

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