Much has been written about the blank page. Many people fear a page that is completely empty. I can’t understand that. To me, a blank page is the beginning of a great adventure. You’re ready to go, you’ve made all the plans and now all you have to do is walk out the door. And the best part, you don’t know how or when it’s going to end.
How did I get over my fear of the blank page? It wasn’t easy. I had to learn to just begin writing words on a page. What words I write almost don’t matter. Just write something. I don’t leave the page blank. I don’t plan on where I’m going. I just write. And eventually something comes out that I think is interesting and I erase everything that came before that thought.
For example, today’s post didn’t begin as a story about the blank page. It began about the excitement I’m feeling about our new company website that will be launching in a few weeks. And how exciting it is to watch something grow from nothing into something. Somewhere in writing that story was the phrase ‘and it all started with the imagination of two people and a blank page, actually many blank pages.’ I stared at that sentence for a long time and realized that for every person who looks at a blank page as the ultimate opportunity, there’s someone who looks at the very same page in fear.
I’m going to Syracuse University in a few weeks, and will be speaking about blank pages. And how to fill them with amazing ideas. So I decided to ask a few people what comes to mind when I say the phrase ‘the blank page.’ Here’s a little of what they said.
“A blank page is exciting. It’s begging for an idea to be sketched, developed.”
“A blank page is the opportunity to truly leave a mark”
“I always think – wow – what can I do with this opportunity. I have complete control. It can now be my vision. A blank page is always positive.”
“The smell of sharpies and finger puppets”
“An interesting progression; nothing, void, stark, stuck, free, limitless.”
“A chance to do it better.”
“Overwhelmed & infinite possibility”
“In my mind, I’m half way there, on paper I haven’t started.”
“Scared to death in the first 30 seconds”
“The beginning of something (hopefully) brilliant”
“Creation, Possibility, New Beginnings.”
“I avoid the blank page. Sometime I’d even just write my name, or doodle, or a not-so-relevant poem, just to avoid the blank page.”
“I hate the blank page. The way it looks at you, sneeringly, questioning your creativity, challenging you to fill it. A blank page is my nemesis – I know I have ideas in me somewhere. Great ones, too, if they would just come forth. What’s the trick this time around? What insight will spark me? Invigorate me? How long do I have to wait? Finally, you pull on the right twig and the dam comes crashing down, a deluge of ideas.”
I find these responses so interesting. Hope. Possibility. Terror. Fear. These are responses from people who always deliver amazing ideas. These are people who haven’t failed on a project in years. In fact, some have probably never failed. And yet the blank page still gives them a pit in the middle of their stomach.
I have a simple proposal. Let’s stop thinking about a blank page as blank. The artist Michelangelo once said about a block of marble “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Therefore, the words are there. The story is already on the page. Your job is to write enough to set it free.
Dorothy Parker may have said it best, “I hate writing, I love having written.”
Embrace the blank page. For within it, there is beauty, truth and a whole lot of fun.