Writers Should Approach a Blank Page Without an Agenda

To be a writer, you have to find your voice everyday. And for everyday that you don’t show up and face the blank page, the harder it becomes to find your voice. But what nobody tells you is much like a meditation practice, you come to a writing practice with no agenda. No attempts to go viral, get lots of traffic, craft words worthy of some literary prize, or the nod of approval from some literary snob or critic.

The same way you don’t judge thoughts and return to your breath during meditation, you don’t judge words and return to the movement of your fingers. You want to accumulate pages not judgements.

I’m willing to bet that most of what prolific writers write is shit that nobody would want to read.

Even Sarah Kathleen Peck who is one of the most poetic writers I know has professed to starting her days by writing “god awful essays that nobody would want to read myself included.” When people tell me they’re scared to write, I’ve realized that they’re not scared to write. They’re scared of sharing what they’ve written. And the fear of what people will think of our writing comes when we approach the blank page with an agenda.

People who meditate say that if you get 2 out of 20 minutes in which you manage to return to your breath, the session was a success. The secret to prolific writing is simply to lower your standards and not expect too much from the page. If you get one shitty sentence, one good sentence or something you’re proud of, there’s really no difference. What matters is that you sat down to write. If you kept the commitment you made to yourself, it’s a success.

When I started writing this piece, none of my sentences were connecting or coherent. I was annoyed because it was a Sunday afternoon, I had surfed, and it was a perfect day to work on getting done with my book. Read that again, and you’ll see the glaring problem. I sat down at the page with an agenda. My expectation was that the best work would emerge because I just had a really great surf session.

“Expectations are the killer of joy” — Seth Godin

Let go of your agenda and just cover the page with chicken scratch, poetry, and everything else in between. When it comes to a blank page, expect nothing, and give everything, put something on the line.

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