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The Curse of the Blank Page

Picture this: you're a student, or professional faced with writing a large piece of writing. You open a blank document and sit. Your brain ticks. You ponder. Your eyes wander. To your left is a pile of unsorted notes. Your eyes flicker back to the screen. Back to the pile. This happens a number of times before your hands lift from the keyboard, betraying your deadline, and fall on the pile. Pile: now, essay: later.

[I started writing this post 20 days ago; a prime example of the Evil Blank Page.]

Some call it writer's block, others call it chronic procrastination, but what it comes down to is sitting down, with these thoughts in your head and figuring out how the heck you're going to translate them to paper.

I helped at an applicant day today and what struck my the most was that three years ago, I was in the exact same position - scared, quiet, and quite honestly a little bit lost! When I wrote those first words of my final year dissertation back in October, it took me a while to get into it - to realise what it was I wanted to say. In fact, it was only in my final chapter that I really figured out my argument.

Translating ideas, communicating, talking, working... what ever you call it, it all boils doing to figuring out how to get what's inside of your head, out of it, whilst making sense. The Blank Page could be that one letter you've been meaning to write (whether the recipient will ever lay their hands on it or not doesn't matter), or that job you've been wanting to apply for, or that novel you've wanted to write, or that pesky assignment!

My advice? After three years of undergraduate study, some things have become easier. I tend to plan a heck of a lot more, and writing scruffy notes in a brainstorming way can be a really efficient way to figure out your thoughts. But really, I'm as clueless at the next soul. Wording is hard, and can be even harder when you're faced with that dreaded Blank Page. But add some colour, add a . or even the title, and suddenly that page isn't blank any more.


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