World’s Blankiest Blank.February 25, 2011
I hate blank pages.
Blank pages are the second hardest thing to deal with when you’re writing.
They stare at you, waiting. Expecting you to write something on them. But picking up a pen (or reaching for the keys, or whatever) and making the first marks on it is always a slightly terrifying thing to do.
Ideas are easy. They’re better than easy. They’re addictive and wonderful and make you feel like Superman on steroids riding a Tyrannosaur. You move through the day, and all the little fragments of information flow through your brain. Fact and fiction, random banter, that thing you overheard on the bus. Then fragment the first latches on to scrap the second, and the third thing jumps in and all of a sudden it all falls together and you know it’s going to be something and then it’s Something. You scribble it down on the nearest scrap of Thing That Holds Ink (the back of your hand and up your arm is perfectly acceptable in an emergency) and before you know it you’re grinning like The Joker in a Candy Store filled with Policemens’ Children.
That’s the easy part, and it’s a huge amount of fun, and absolutely the best part of being a writer because you’ve just Thought Of Something New and you tell yourself that’s what makes you a writer.
Then you go to turn the idea into a story.
You try to get in touch with the mood you were in when you had the idea, and only get the dialing tone.
And the blank page looks at you.
You don’t want to start writing. It’s scary. There is nothing there, and because of that, it still has the potential to be anything. It’s just an idea in your head – and there, it’s free to grow and move and mutate. As soon as you begin to commit it to a page, the possibilities are culled. Every scratch on the page reduces the potential from Anything into more of a Something, and by the time you’ve finished it it will be a very definite thing and that Thing might not be very good. It almost definitely won’t be as good as that initial Idea felt like it could be. Collapsing possibility into actuality… if you do it and you make a mess of it then maybe you’re not a very good writer.
So you hold off, waiting for the idea to develop, until you have it “fully formed.” Until it’s “ready.”
The problem is, it never will be.
And if you don’t write it, you’re not a writer. You’re just a guy who has ideas.
That’s what I keep telling myself anyway.
But blank pages still scare the hell of me, whether I’m writing a story or a thesis chapter. The Thesis is the biggest piece of writing I’ve ever undertaken, and I want it to be good. But the fear of words being written that aren’t has had me not writing anywhere near enough for the past two months.
I had the idea flood this past week. It felt pretty damn awesome. But the ideas aren’t finished, and I want to keep them in my head while I read more and “refine” them. I had to tie myself to my computer for a silly amount of hours this week, but I actually managed to get words on paper. They’re not very good.
But they exist.
And that means I get to say I’m writing.