That White Sheet of Paper…

“You have to be brave to take out that white sheet of paper and put on it words that could be evidence of your stupidity.”

Sol Saks

This is the part of essay-writing that I hate. I can come up with titles if I need to, I can plan, and research, and re-plan. Yet when it comes to putting words on a page, it all suddenly feels like a big commitment. What if I change my mind about something? What if I got it wrong? Maybe I should read a few more books?

Because of this, it’s rare for me to have finished an essay well ahead of the deadline. I find it hard to write without the adrenaline rush of ‘Get it on paper or fail’. This is worrying, since it doesn’t allow a lot of time to edit or redraft, and although some of my best marks have come from essays written in this haphazard way, I feel uncomfortable relying on it.

I’ve tried giving myself arbitrary deadlines, but my brain refuses to accept these because it knows I’m lying, and stubbornly becomes as blank as the paper I’m staring at when I try to get going. A friend suggested that if starting was the problem, I should just begin writing something that goes in the middle. As someone who plans their introduction and content, even down to rough notes on my expected conclusion, this advice is tantamount to being told to start climbing a mountain from the halfway point when I’m stood at the bottom. Yet another suggestion was for me to get out of the house so that I’m not distracted by other things that need doing (it’s amazing how clean my house gets when there are essays to write); this sounds promising, but I worry about the time I would waste people-watching and ordering cups of coffee.

Should I give up on trying to anticipate deadlines and accept that this is the kind of writer I am? Or should I persevere? Let me know if you have any suggestions – I’ll just be staring at that white sheet of paper…

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