Blank page! Don’t stare at it…

Do you ever stare dreamily at a blank page (or screen) and ask yourself: where shall I begin?

My daughter recently slumped on the chair next to me looking glum and a little bit grumpy. She didn’t know where or how to begin writing her school project.

Everyone faces this challenge from time to time, whether penning a letter, an essay, or a novel. I wanted to share my strategies with her, but the mother in me resisted. I, therefore, did not suggest lining up a row of mugs full to the brim with strong coffee, or a large balloon glass of even stronger gin. 

She stared at me, expecting answers. I realised at that moment something important: what worked for me would not necessarily work for her. For example, I like to lose myself in music to get in the ‘mood’ for writing or light an aromatherapy candle. She prefers music blaring in her eardrums until her eyeballs start to vibrate. 

Turning my attention back to her dilemma, I suggested she first consider how she wants her audience to feel or react. To do this, identify: 

The underpinning emotion

My view is that writing is all about the emotion we aspire to create. Whether it is sadness, happiness, or the broad spectrum of emotions in-between, we need to be clear about what we want to achieve. 

My daughter nodded her head. She wanted her readers to feel empathy for both sides of a tricky debate (she was writing about veganism). I wished her luck! 

How do I connect with the underpinning emotion?

  • Brainstorm words – how do I want my reader to feel right now? And how does my character or story need to convey this? I love using a thesaurus to get inspired by different words
  • Tune into a playlist (music can really make you feel emotion) 
  • Ignore household appliances (they only beep for a while)
  • If your cat tries to make eye contact, resist  


  1. Create the right mood and environment for you (music, a warm drink, a cosy cushion)
  2. Get used to pointing at your ear pods if someone tries to interupt you (even if you have paused your music)
  3. Enjoy yourself. If you aren’t, chances are you won’t be writing something others enjoy either
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