Friday, March 2, 2018

The Blank Page

Committing to writing daily for 31 days sounds like a really great idea in the month or two before I start.  I can easily think of things I might write about, imagine the stories I might tell, look forward to the insights I'll discover.

Then March rolls around and I stare at this:

An empty page, waiting for my words to fill it.  Waiting for the thoughts and feelings to escape my brain through clicks on my keyboard.  Far too often, I see this image and my brain freezes.  It's almost as if the ideas escape through my ears, lost in the ether, never to be found again.

As a teacher of writing, this is an important reminder.  Writing is hard work.  On-demand writing can be even harder, especially in a test-taking situation where you don't have control over the topic.  In this space, at least I have choices.  I can write about whatever strikes my fancy, and I can write for as long (or as little) as I want.  And no one will be grading my performance.

It's good for teachers to put themselves in their students' shoes, to remember what it feels like to undertake a task that feels overwhelming at first, to struggle with an idea or a blank page.  When we do this, we can examine our own processes for rising to the challenge.  We can hold on to that feeling of frustration or struggle and perhaps approach our students who are feeling those same emotions with a bit more compassion or empathy than we might have before.

This once-blank page is filling up, and as I write the ideas begin to flow more quickly.  Maybe, just maybe, if I opened another page, I could also write tomorrow's post as well.


  1. I do the great majority of the assignments I give to my students. The essays and major ones are non-negotiable. It's helped me re-think mini-lessons, sequencing, wording of directions, and so many things. You're right, though, this experience also helps us understand being beholden to an expectation and a deadline, even if this is a self-imposed choice.

  2. Isn't it so interesting how that happens? So many ideas percolating and calling to me--until I actually sit down and open a new document and then it's like my mind goes blank and I've never had a single idea to write about in my whole life. I hadn't thought about slicing as a type of "writing on demand," but it is. Thanks for this thought-provoking post.

  3. This post is so timely, as we just finished our first round of state testing which includes an on-demand writing prompt. I saw some fear of the blank page while I was walking around my students. Because of this challenge, I understand even better.

  4. When I taught Creative Writing March was always when I was at my best teaching and conferencing with kids. And, it's funny that once we start writing, the ideas seem to come a little easier--although I wasn't always successful getting kids to believe me.