Don’t be bullied by the blank page


It’s oddly appropriate that I am starting my brand new blog about storytelling with a sudden and ill-timed case of writer’s block. 

It’s amazing how the blank page can feel like a big bully, even to a writer.

Do you ever feel like you “should” produce content (blog posts, newsletters) or contribute to a conversation by getting published somewhere, somehow… but you’re stuck trying to decide what to say, or how to say it, or whether it’s worth telling in the first place?

If you want to break through and start speaking up, there’s one rule of thumb you can throw away right now.

In school we were taught that stories always need a beginning, middle and an end.  I say, forget that.

Yes, a story needs focus and purpose, but that doesn’t mean it needs a definitive ending. Sometimes the most powerful stories are unfinished.

Don’t wait to become the definitive expert on something. Don’t wait until you have more experience. Don’t hold back because you haven’t solved the problem you’re grappling with.

Those limitations? That’s where the story begins.

I practice boxing. My sensei-like coach reminds us frequently that in the ring, the fight does not begin when the first bell rings. It’s when both parties are tired, after the initial adrenaline surge has gone and left the fighters exposed and exhausted, that the real fight begins.

Storytelling is not so different. The real story is often hidden beneath that first layer of clean, pretty, boring details – the stuff you think everyone wants to know. The crisp, positive message. The hopeful little wrap-up at the end. The key messages neatly bulleted into take-away points.

It’s what’s behind these points where the real heart lies. It’s the unanswered questions. The stuff you haven’t figured out yet. The progress that’s still in process.

So if you want to start speaking up, share what you know so far. Pose the questions you haven’t answered yet. Be honest about the parts you don’t know.

And if you’re having trouble facing down that blank page bully on your own, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Camille DePutter