Monday, January 25, 2016

The Great Blank Page

For a writer, there are few things more unsettling than the endless white abyss of an empty page. The most difficult part of creating something new is beginning; writing unto itself is easy, starting is where it gets tricky. Not knowing where to begin is a seldom understood reality of the creatively minded. Whether it is in Microsoft Word, a physical piece of paper, the notes on an iPhone or in a Google doc, the clawing torment of writer’s block is no different. This blank page syndrome struck me once again as I set out to write my latest blog post. However, as author and binge-drinking misanthrope Charles Bukowski once pointed out, “Writing about a writer's block is better than not writing at all.” 
Every great novel, short story, poem and blog that has ever been written started out as a blank page, an empty vessel waiting to be filled. Some pieces of writing flow like a swift mountain stream, others like a drying riverbed but all must have a beginning. Anything that is expressed through writing starts as thought, a cloud waiting to condense into rain. As words fall, the desert of the unmarked page begins to spring to lifea garden of prose emerges. Gardeners and writers alike though, understand that sometimes it simply does not rain. When a drought hits, and it will, all you can do is either wait for the rain or try to plant something new.

When it comes to escaping a dreaded writer’s block, there are two major schools of thought, either we can work it out or we should let it be (Beatles puns intended). Some feel that creativity is about discipline and persistence, that we should stick with what we are writing. The author H. Jackson Brown Jr. remarked, “Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.” Some believe that inspiration cannot be forced, when do not know what to write we should simply step away for a bit. Writer Neil Gaiman's piece of advice is to, "Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it.”  

Personally, both ways of thinking can be true depending on the situation, there is no ‘perfect’ answer. There are times when writing is much like Newton’s first law, an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion; if I begin writing I am likely to continue writing. Having the right frame of mind at the start is also a major factor, I must want to write in the first place. I have found that things like listening to music, reading, having abstract conversations or watching interesting movies and shows tend to stimulate my mind. Writing truly is a crop that requires patience and tender care with no guarantee of results.

The art of written word remains a fickle endeavor, it is a game of ups and downs. Even the greatest literary minds of all time faced these word droughts, when inspiration was nowhere to be found. This phenomenon is not the result of poor skill or lack of effort, it is merely an accepted risk in the creative process. For all the frustration writer's block causes, it has one great aspect: it goes away. Some days that great blank page is the most terrifying thing in the world, other days it is just simply a blank page. 

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