Don't Fear the Reaper…I Mean, the Blank Page
by Kerri Randall
As a writer, I know firsthand how intimidating the blank page can be. And it's one thing to have a great idea, sit down, write a few lines and suddenly have no idea where to go with it. (Talk about disappointment!) It's another to make yourself sit down to write and have no idea what to write about in the first place.
But we can't always wait for the muse. Sometimes we have to will inspiration to come by making ourselves sit down and create, even if all we get after an hour is a few crappy, unusable lines. In sales, they say that every "no" brings you one step closer to the next "yes." In art, every crappy line or hook or rhythm or melody brings you one step closer to the genius one that seemed to appear out of nowhere.
Today I just want to inspire you to keep trying, keep working, and never give up. I don't know about you, but for the 8 completed songs that are going on my band's album, I have notebooks upon notebooks (with random sticky notes stuck on and in them) with unused song lyrics, some "finished," and others are just random lines that sounded good but I had no idea what else to do with them.
But we save them. I do and you know you do too. Why? Because inspiration hit, but the song it belongs in isn't ready to be fully written for another year or so. And one day we'll be writing and remember that awesome line and say, "Aha! THAT'S where that lyric belongs!" (Or that hook or that groove or that rhythm or that bridge…)
I write down random lyrics all the time, and just today I thought up a better line for one of the songs on the album. What I haven't done in a long time is sit down at my keyboard and dink around (which, yes, I need to get back to!). There was a period in time when I tried to instill a little discipline into myself. When I got home from work, I would immediately head downstairs, sit at the keyboard, and play something. Anything. And mind you, I'm not really a keyboardist. I had a few lessons when I was little, I can still read music due to playing clarinet and singing, and I can figure a lot out by ear, but I wouldn't call myself a keyboardist.
At the very least, I can lay down a basic idea that others could expand on. So that's what I did. I recorded a few decent ideas that even surprised myself, but most of it will probably never be used. At the very least, the crappy stuff taught me what doesn't work or inspired a better version of the original idea.
But most of the time I had a blank page, a blank screen, staring back at me, and I'd feel horrible. My mind would be fried, and sometimes, forcing inspiration just calls forth more crap. But you gotta go through it to reach the good stuff. I'd make myself just do something with that keyboard, or maybe sing or write, for at least an hour. If I was doing well, I'd go longer. If I felt like I'd be better off banging my head against the wall, I'd stop after an hour. If I caught myself playing the song from "Big" or recording this song that the chickens on the Muppets play…and playing with the recording, I knew my night was done for.
Sometimes creativity can be a painful process! But we do it because we love it. Yes, we want to share it with the world and inspire others, whether we're inspiring them to create change or just to get up and dance. But it has to come out of love first, blank page be damned. That's why we must stare at it, fight it, and conquer it, no matter how long it takes.
The world is waiting for you to share your talent. Don't deprive us of it. Don't let a silly blank page prevent you from reaching your potential!
What do you do when the blank page is too much? How do you beat writer's block? Please share in the comments below or on my Facebook wall!
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Kerri Randall is a singer, performer, writer, and…(wait for it)…fitness instructor. She has performed throughout Milwaukee and Wisconsin with multiple bands, and has even sung at the historic Pabst Theater with the Milwaukee Police Band and Jazz Ensemble. She is also a featured writer on Dotted Music (dottedmusic.com). Her passion is entertaining and inspiring others to think, laugh, and have fun. Kerri believes the artist community can only thrive when we all encourage and support each other!