Monday, January 23, 2012

That Beautiful White Page

The blank page seems to be a popular phobia for lots of people—right up there with public speaking and choking on melted cheese. (Okay, so maybe the latter is just me.) Writers and non-writers alike talk of freezing up in the face of all that emptiness. On the other side there are those who swear that the empty page is full of possibility, the freshness of it symbolizing all of their optimism about what this story will be.
I think beginnings should be approached with neither fear nor too much hope. No fear, because you have a delete key. At any point, you can always erase and start over before committing. Or you can start an alternate version. The point is that you are not carving this thing in stone and even if you were you could probably sand it down. Not too much hope because of course you have the best intentions for your writing, but no need to smother the little darling with your expectations like some helicopter parent before it's even out of your head. In the end your writing is always going to be its own thing, hopefully better, but not quite what you initially imagined, so it seems wiser to save yourself the anguish and not get too attached to that ideal now.
No, the best way to start a new piece of writing is to take it as it comes. Slowly but not tentatively. Focused but not closed off to other creative possibilities. Confident in your own skill, but fully aware that a book is a long-ass journey and there will be some rough spots along the way. Pace yourself. The middle and the end are yet to come.


My debut young adult novel PRETTY CROOKED (Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins) will be released in March. Even though I had to extensively research pickpocketing techniques to write it, I remain a law-abiding citizen. I live in Philadelphia with my husband Jesse and cat Beau a.k.a. Bread. When I'm not writing for teens, I'm cooking and/or writing about food for The Philadelphia Inquirer and other publications.

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