Saturday, June 1, 2013

Embrace The Blank Page

Here's a writing story for you.

When I was younger, I used to ask for packages of printer paper for Christmas and birthdays. It sounds like an easy gift now, and something that I should have had kicking around my home anyway, but alas - we did not have a computer in my home until 1998, and we certainly didn't have a printer until after that. However, I was fortunate one Christmas to unwrap a Smith Corona electric typewriter, and it still sits in my bedroom to this day. It has never failed me.

I used to take the packages of blank printer paper and draw on them. When I got a little older, I used them to type pages upon pages of prose, personal stories, choose your own adventures, and anything else I could think of. The only thing that stopped me was the occasional power outage from snow or heavy lightning storms. It was easy, or at least it felt easy at the time, to tap into my creativity. I would flip through the stack of paper and imagine the possibilities.

It wasn't until I graduated to notebooks that the fear of writing crept into my psyche. You know what I'm talking about, right? I would flip through the lined pages of the notebook the same as I did the printer paper, but something had changed. I was afraid of writing something that wasn't perfect. I was afraid of having to tear out a page from the notebook and discard it because my words had failed the promise of the blank page. In the back of my mind I blame this emergence of fear on my love of finely bound journals, but in reality, this is a fear that all writers face at one point or another in their lives. (If they haven't ever faced this, I admire them for their fearlessness!)

It took me a long time to get over the fear of writing unabashedly in a bound journal (or notebook) - only last year, in fact. I have been filling paperback Moleskine notebooks since last summer, and whenever a new idea comes to mind, I turn the page and start fresh. It's this blank page, this whole concept of not knowing what is going to flow from your pen, that is the key to unlocking creative potential. You must not let the blank page intimidate you. I often wonder what was so different when I was in high school compared to now that I feel such trepidation when I think about sitting down to write. The only thing I can do to counter this anxiety is to start fresh, embrace the unknown, and keep moving forward. There may be more at stake now than when I was younger, but that must mean that writing is more important now than it ever was.