Where to begin?
That is the question at the heart of A Blank Page, a work of interactive fiction that anyone with a creative spirit should be able to understand. In A Blank Page, you are the writer, sitting in front of a blank screen and trying to figure out how to begin. It seems like it should be so easy. You’re smart. You’re imaginative. You have ideas. The keyboard is right there in front of you.
So, why is it so easy to find something else to do?
You can look out the window. You can chat with your friends. You can go for a walk. You can even go through your notebook and look at all of the ideas that you’ve had, ideas that seemed good at the time but which now add up to a big pile of What Was I Thinking? Why can you do all of that but you can’t start your masterpiece?
Trust me, I’ve been there.
In fact, I’m there right now.
I have been playing and reading interactive fiction like A Blank Page for years but I’ve never actually written one. I have had ideas for a few. I’ve even started on a few. But I’ve never gotten past the first room description or the solution for the first puzzle. In October, when I was playing the entries in the 2021 Interactive Fiction Competition, I decided that 2022 was going to be the year that I was not only going to finally write a game but I was also going to let the rest of the world see it. It’s been tough getting started, though. I’ve played some good games and I’ve played some bad and really sloppy games and I would definitely rather be responsible for a good one. My hope is that I’ll have something to enter into the 2022 Interactive Fiction Competition. I don’t care if my game is ranked in top ten of the entries. I just don’t want it to be dead last.
That’s where something like A Blank Page is helpful. It’s a reminder that I’m not the only one who sometimes doesn’t know where to begin. It’s good to know that I’m not the first person to have ever struggled with this. Somewhere, someone else is also struggling to write their first game or their first story or create their first painting and they’re hoping that, whatever the final result of their efforts may be, it will be good enough to justify a second one. As A Blank Page‘s creator says in the introduction to the game, “all arts have their own version of the ‘Blank Page Syndrome.'”
A Blank Page is a short Twine game, full of details that will resonate with any artist who has struggled. It’s good and comforting to know that I’m not the only person who has ever spent more than one day looking at a blank page or screen and asking, Where to Begin?