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The Blank Page

There you are. A blank page stares back at you. The cursor blinks at you, dares you to move words across the page. You sit, wait for the words.

Nothing happens.

You drum your fingers on the desk; scroll through songs on your music player; adjust you seat; get up and walk around; you do anything to get your mind off the cursor’s dare.

Why is this task you’ve done many times before suddenly so daunting? Where have all your words gone? What story are you trying to keep captive?

I am reminded of a quote by Julia Cameron in her book The Right to Write: “Writing is about getting something down, not about thinking something up.” That’s just it—it’s already there. The words you’re looking for, the story you want to tell, the characters you want to introduce to the world, they’re right there waiting for you to get them down. You already have it in you so there’s no need to think them up.

Too often as writers we feel the challenge of the blank page. It haunts as though we are seven years old afraid of the dark. We don’t need a nightlight because this is a fear we’ve conquered before. Many times. Yes, it is always a little unnerving going into a new project. It’s like trying to muster up the guts to jump out the window of a burning building even while staring at the net just a few feet below.

But the idea of the project ahead of you, the joy it’s going to bring as your fingers move those words across the page and the story unfolds before your eyes is enough to abandon procrastination and fear. The impending release is exhilarating, motivating, and damn near erotic. It’s addicting. You want more of it, need more of it. Now, instead of staring at the blank page, words are staring back at you. No more dares from the cursor; words are moving so fast they can’t catch their breath.

A blank page staring back at you can be quite intimidating. But the true scary part is allowing the blank page to keep you from ever starting–whether it’s your first, second, or hundredth time.

One word.

One line.

One page at a time.

You’ll eventually see the blank page as your motivation.

“When we forget ourselves, when we let go of being good and settle into just being a writer, we begin to have the experience of writing through us.”

Julia Cameron

Yes.

Yes.

Yes.

Not only are we telling a story, we are being transformed on the inside by our audacity to write. The words are just as much us as we are the words.

The blank page is more about who we are, not who we are not. It is a mirror. Look at it—look at yourself—and write what you see.

3 Comments

    • Julia T. Williams Julia T. Williams

      Thanks for reading, and I’m glad you found inspiration!

  1. I enjoyed this: an early morning call to the page!

    I refer to Cameron’s work often. (Writers must read other writers and allow themselves to be inspired by them, just as I am reading you now.)😉 I carry a pocket-sized version of Cameron’s The Writer’s Life everywhere I go; this reminds me that I am a writer, first and foremost, everywhere I go. I am reminded that life is giving me so much material through my daily living. I am reminded to harness the observations to examine, then write the stories they yield. Moreover, each time I look in my purse, the conviction that writing must be a daily exercise, must be ritual, summons me to the page.

    Too often, the writer erects her own blocks – two of which are the fear of rejection and the desire for perfection. That way, we are our own saboteurs. I heard a quote that resonates deeply with me like Cameron’s words does in this post; it goes along the lines of “you cannot edit a blank page” by Jodi Picoult. Thanks for your reminder this morning, Julia.

What say you?

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