III. The Blank Page

I’ve written horror. I’ve written things meant to scare you. I know what makes you shake in your boots, what keeps you up at night, what makes you nervous to walk down that alley. I’ve seen through the darkness and shadows. I know the secrets. I know what you think will scare you, and what really scares you. Ghosts, goblins, spiders, sounds in the night, standing up in front of strangers to speak, rapists, serial killers, rogue spies, dragons, Gorgons, getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth, the thing chasing you through your dreams, marriage proposals, silence–all these things, and many others, may seem scary. But if you’re a writer, the most frightening, nerve-scraping, ego-eroding thing you’ve ever faced is the Blank Page.

Picture it a moment: empty, white, pulsing with the electronic blood of your laptop or daring you to touch pencil to paper. It mocks you. It laughs. It winks and beckons and makes promises you know, you absolutely one-hundred-percent believe can be fulfilled, and then, like the abyss, it returns your stare, never blinking, until your eyes bleed.

Some days, you stare back at that blank screen and grin. Some days, you slice into that page with quickly arranged letters and words and phrases and sentences, until paragraphs, chapters and entire books have poured out through your fingertips. You are allowed good days. That’s what keeps you coming back.

But some days…some days, there’s nothing. Some days, the synapses in your brain fail to fire, those magical fingertips malfunction, and every word you can possibly imagine is perfect–beautiful and wondrous–but will in no way ever fit with any other word you can conjure. Your poetic license has expired. You’re humbled, beaten, devastated, and left to suffer agonies and miseries unimagined in the deepest depths of hell. You’re a writer without words.

I hate to tell you this, but tough shit. You’re a writer. Why do you need to have this adversarial relationship with the Blank Page? You bleed on this page. You suffer with it, not because of it. Your triumphs are not triumphs over the Blank Page. You’re in this together. In case you didn’t realize this, the page remains blank, nothing more than unrealized potential, until you come along with your alchemical ways and make it into something else, something better, something more powerful, awe-inspiring, poignant, and real. If you allow yourself to think the Blank Page has any power over you, any animosity toward you, any ability to prevent you from creating, you may be a great many things, but you are not a writer.

I’m not going to say it’s always easy. Sometimes, you have to step away. Play your violin, sing a sad song, run on the treadmill until your calves burn. Sometimes, you’re sick, and incapable of creation. Sometimes, ideas will compete in your head, or something external will overwhelm all other thoughts, leaving you confused and uncertain. That’s okay. There are times when being a writer isn’t the number one top priority. But when the time comes to again sit in front of that Blank Screen, when you face the words you haven’t yet written, don’t for a moment think that there’s something working against you. The Blank Page is your friend. Your lover. Your future. More than anything, it wants you to change the face of it. It wants you to explore its potential. The Blank Page selflessly martyrs itself so you can transform it into something more than Blank.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply