Facing a blank page is like stage fright without seeing the audience—maybe the most intimidating experience we can have. It’s intimidating because someone will read whatever we put on that blank page, and they will pass judgment. We’re putting ourselves out there.
When I began my internship at WordRake, my audience was Gary Kinder, WordRake’s founder and my editor. Gary was a New York Times bestselling author, and I was an 18-year-old college freshman. I drafted emails ten times before I sent them.
The blank page paralyzes everyone
Gary still edits my writing, and I still feel nervous when I send him work to review. But I asked him one day if he feels intimidated by the blank page, and he said, “Always. It never goes away. What gets easier is that you know you will get beyond it.”
Fear is a universal part of the human experience, and overcoming it is a process. We’ve talked about writing and time management before, and one key time management strategy is to write the first draft with little regard for grammar and spelling, or even making sense. Who cares if we make a mistake? No one else will see it. The important thing is to toss the ideas down and see what shape they’re taking. Now, we’re no longer staring at a blank page. The biggest stressor is gone, and we are free to refine successive drafts.
We all can improve
The first time Gary sent me an email with a typo in it, I was surprised, then relieved. His mistake made me less paranoid and served as maybe the most valuable writing lesson of all: Everyone makes mistakes. We improve as we write and receive feedback, which can come through human editors like Gary and editing and proofreading software like WordRake. After two years interning, and now working at WordRake full time, I finally realized that Gary has spent decades refining his writing, but I haven’t. So the more I write, the better I become. And the less intimidated I am by that blank page. It helps to work at a company that creates software to move us beyond the fear and toward more effective writing. When I summarize that in one word, the word is confidence.