It’s not a shark but the blank page that can induce a sense of failure in a writer, observed US singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman today on BBC Radio 2 (about 75 minutes in). She said the hardest work you may do as a writer is staring at that blank space for two hours when nothing is coming through.

But achieving nothing concrete in that time is not failure. “You just lifted 2,000 pounds in the gym of creativity,” she said. She also used a marathon metaphor: “People don’t run out the door and run 26 miles. They create the muscles first.” You do that by making sure you turn up and try, even if you don’t write something.

Nielsen Chapman teaches creativity and songwriting and believes creativity exists within everyone, but in many of us this is blocked. It’s like a fine white linen towel on a high shelf waiting to be reached and pulled down, she said.

Perhaps, as well as latent talent, it is knowledge of how to persist that separates the elite athlete or the Nielsen Chapman from the rest of us. They persist until they can reach.

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