There is very little that has been as frightening to me as a blank piece of paper and the requirement I fill it. In 8th grade I applied for multiple high schools, one of which required writing a timed essay. Yeah, that’s why I didn’t got to Georgetown for high school. But it’s not that I was a bad writer, I even won a class award in high school for writing “clear, coherent and smart” sentences. It’s just I was terrified of that blank page and the expectation I could fill it.
When I first got on the internet in the early 90s, I turned into somewhat of a prolific writer. But I usually didn’t have the blank page to deal with. Almost always I was writing a response to something someone had said. The page wasn’t blank, it had words on it.
Writing a thesis, or even a proposal, was the scariest bit of grad school for me. Even going in, I was pretty convinced I would never finish because I couldn’t imagine myself having the discipline to write. It wasn’t the total reason I flunked out, but it was part of it.
After I left academia and ended up a consultant, I continued to struggle with the blank page issue. I had clients that expected reports, but would put them off as long as possible. When I’d finally conquer the panic and get something down, it was always fine. But there was an ongoing mental battle to get the butt in the chair and words on the page.
A few years ago I decided to start blogging for work. My initial goal was writing something 3 days a week, but it rapidly evolved into getting something posted five days a week. Having to face the blank page every day has really helped with dealing with that panic, and more. Blogging regularly has helped me to learn how to create a narrative and tell a coherent story.
A few weeks ago I put together a document for a client. The document wasn’t anything spectacular, but what was amazing to me was I sat down, wrote for an hour or so and had 3 pages of information the client needed. There was no panic. There was no mental battle. It just flowed.
Many writers have said there is nothing special about writing, just get your butt in the chair and write something every day. This was a totally foreign concept to me, because I couldn’t imagine having that battle daily. Except that once it becomes something you just do, there isn’t as much of a battle.
So, yeah, writing is getting easier with practice. I’m finding a voice and only getting better as I go. 10 years ago I would have laughed had anyone told me I’d be “a writer” and while I’m pretty sure I’m not actually a writer, I know I am walking further down that path.