9 tips to help reluctant homeschool writers conquer the blank page

by | Aug 29, 2016 | Reluctant or Struggling Writers, Special Needs

There’s nothing quite like a blank page to ruin a perfectly good day.

We need to put words to paper, but they will not come. The blank page intimidates us. The objects in the room call, our eyes wander, and our mind runs to places that are more desirable. We struggle to come back to the page with pen in hand. In the meantime, the white space has grown in intensity, until it is blinding. –Richard Mansel, The Fear of the Blank Page

It can be a formidable foe, this empty field of white—especially for the child who struggles to coax even a short string of words from his reluctant pen.

Fortunately, there are simple things you can do to help the most reluctant student find his footing—or at least his voice. Let’s look at nine ways you can encourage your child to face (and perhaps even conquer!) the blank page.

1. Write first thing. 

Consider starting the school day with a writing activity, while attitudes are still positive and minds feel more creative. Facing an unpleasant or challenging task earlier in the day—when your children are fresh and alert—may be the key to unlocking ideas.

2. Brainstorm separately before beginning to write.

Writer’s block often hits when your child sits down to the blank paper before giving serious thought to the topic. Jotting down random ideas—no matter how jumbled—can help release a log jam of words and phrases. Encourage your kids to brainstorm before beginning any writing assignment.

3. Set parameters for the assignment.

Few children find it freeing to hear: “Write about whatever you want.” The vastness of total choice can overwhelm even the most eager writer, so establish some boundaries for the assignment to help your struggling writer conquer the blank page. For example:

  • Specify the kind of writing. Will the composition be a personal narrative? A persuasive essay? A descriptive piece?
  • Let students choose a topic within a particular genre such as mystery or adventure, or within a current area of study such as pioneer days or the Great Depression.
  • Give expectations regarding composition length or number of sources you require.

4. Offer story prompts.

WriteShop StoryBuilders | Printable Writing Prompt Card Decks for creative writing

StoryBuilders are creative writing prompt cards that let students choose a character, character trait, setting, and plot as the launching place for a zany (or serious) story. Mixing and matching elements of a story can unlock creativity and open the door for some fun writing experiences.

Or try printable story prompts that include word banks to spark ideas and inspire reluctant writers!

5. Give topic options and choices.

Encourage students to write about favorite, familiar topicsdogs, ballet, skateboarding, Legos, karate, etc. The more they enjoy the subject matter, the more vested they’ll be in the writing project.

6. Start with a personal experience or familiar story.

It can make an excellent foundation for a new story. Your children don’t always have to come up with something unique—it’s totally fine for them to retell a fable, fairytale, folktale, or other familiar story in their own words.

7. Provide a photo.

Pictures—especially those that “speak a thousand words”—make great prompts for generating story or narrative ideas. When searching for photos online, you’ll want to preview sites for age-appropriate content. That said, consider finding inspiration from one of these:

The blank page can intimidate reluctant writers. Overcoming their fear and conquering the blank page are possible with these nine helpful tips.

8. Do some or all of the writing.

Kids who struggle with working memory just can’t seem to conquer the blank page. By the time a thought makes its way from brain to hand to paper, this reluctant or learning-challenged student has lost her grasp on the idea, and it simply drifts away. 

Letting her dictate allows you to capture those words before they dissipate. Then, once they’re written, she can more easily rearrange and modify.

9. Encourage a “rough draft” mindset.

Students who think their first draft should be perfect can gain a lot from adjusting their thinking. Writing is a debugging process. Starting sloppy deals a blow to the blank page as the student plays with early ideas and gets into the writing flow. As author and poet Margaret Atwood so aptly put it: “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”

A blank sheet of paper may intimidate reluctant writers, but overcoming their fear and conquering the blank page are possible!

When you start teaching simple writing skills at a young age, children are less likely to fear and hate writing later on—and when fun replaces fear, their confidence will blossom.
Learn more here.

WriteShop Primary homeschool writing curriculum • Seamless for mom, delightful for kids!


  1. Mother of 3

    Great tips! I’m always looking for way to make writing less painful for my boys.

    • Kim Kautzer

      You never know which idea will be the spark you’ve been waiting for!

  2. Michelle

    Thanks for the great tips as always, Kim. I love the last the best. Handwriting and neatness (of writing or thoughts) should never be critiqued on first drafts. We moms are too tough on our reluctant writers! Thanks for the reminder!

    • Kim Kautzer

      Yes! It took me a while to understand the mindset of the reluctant writer. Even one simple tip can become a lifeline to a struggling student. Glad you stopped by, Michelle!

  3. Danielle

    Great post! Shared to Pinterest. Wonderful!

    • Kim Kautzer

      Thanks, Danielle!

  4. Janet

    I love the quote with which you begin the article! It’s also a good analogy to living: may my days never be “blank pages,” in which I didn’t accomplish something useful or inspire someone else to! (Sorry, a bit off topic, but couldn’t resist!) 🙂

  5. Nancy Larimer

    The blog on the blank page is excellent! It has wonderful, specific helps for working with a reluctant writer with a blank page! I will use the ideas when I work with my son. I appreciate you for taking the time to share your knowledge. I know you are very busy. God bless you Kim!

    • Kim

      Thank you for taking a moment to comment, Nancy. It’s always encouraging to know when an article hits home with one of our blog readers. 🙂

  6. Kim

    I wish I could have lifted the entire article, Richard. Very inspirational! I can’t wait to spend some time perusing your blog.

  7. Richard Mansel

    Thanks for quoting my article. Great post. Keep up the good work!


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