To some people, this empty room symbolizes something profound, mysterious, and terrifying: the task of starting with nothing and working your way toward creating something whole and beautiful and satisfying.
It’s no different for a writer rolling a fresh sheet of paper into his typewriter (or more likely firing up the blank screen on his computer), or a painter confronting a virginal canvas, a sculptor staring at a raw chunk of stone, a composer at the piano with his fingers hovering just above the keys.
Some people find this moment — the moment before creativity begins — so painful that they simply cannot deal with it. They get up and walk away from the computer, the canvas, the keyboard; they take a nap or go shopping or fix lunch or do chores around the house. They procrastinate. In its most extreme form, this terror totally paralyzes people.
The blank space can be humbling. But I’ve faced it my whole professional life. It’s my job. It’s also my calling. Bottom line: Filling this empty space constitutes my identity.”Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life
In 2019, I was writing daily. I wrote this:
But no matter what the blank page looks like, I show up for it.
”A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” – E.B. White
If I waited for my kids to grow up, to have a room of my own, to have the perfect routine, to have the art supplies all set up and organized, to be completely rested, to be happy and know what I wanted to create, I never would have fulfilled my creative callings.
I remember teaching 6-10 workshops per month and at one point, half of them were original classes that I had to create with 1-2 weeks notice. I worked with the art of story and paper at the time. I had four kids with one of them as a new baby. After the kids would go to bed, I would put the baby to sleep on the couch in the basement and spread out all of my art supplies on the floor and work until the baby woke up for the next feed.
I remember writing on this blog in the wee hours of the morning and in the middle of the night because I had to write something down.
I remember waking up at 4:30am to draw on the chalkboard hoping the kids wouldn’t wake up or I would do my Book of Hours in the car if the kids fell asleep on the way home.
But wait, you say. What about those Goldilocks Conditions that we mayBE’d about on Day Four? Yes but you have to find the balance, like the old serenity prayer, accept the things you cannot change while changing the things you can. If you have been following along for the month, what conditions absolutely need to be met and what conditions actually aren’t that necessary?
Maybe through this journey, you were able to prioritize and create conditions. But maybe not. Maybe it’s been a futile and frustrating effort. Maybe you have to lower your standard. Maybe your ideal conditions can’t happen for a few years because your kids are too young or you have to focus on one thing at a time like getting more sleep or helping your kids adjust to an emotional transition.
Today, in 2023, I am astonished how much I understand this more. My first blank pages are my mornings. I have been filling them with movement to maintain clarity and energy for the rest of my day as I teach and make decisions, The last two days took me off of writing and journalling my MayBE and four years ago on this day, I wrote this:
Sometimes we need to face the blank page even if we are missing those conditions. Sometimes our sanity depends on it. Sometimes we are called to even if the rest of our life is falling apart because maybe it will be the only thing that will give us the energy to put it back together.
And if you missed some days, that’s cool because at least you show up. (Thank you for this reminder, me in 2019.)
Because as Picasso said,
“To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing.”
- Fill a blank page with words or images.
Whenever I face a particular blank space without inspiration, I copy. I copy a poem. I copy a drawing. I copy house decor. I copy a person who inspires me. It takes the pressure off and is the perfect way to begin without so much responsibility.
- Copy one thing onto a blank page.
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