Here is a blank page. Do what you want with it.
How does that statement make you feel? Honestly, it gives me the heebie-jeebies.
I want to say: What do you mean? Do I draw on it? Do I paint? Do you want me to write a story? What should I draw??? What do I write??? Gah! I’ll show you want I want to do with this paper! (Now imagine a semi-possessed woman crumpling up the paper and throwing it across the room.)
Needless to say, the blank page is a little bit of a scary thing for me.
Give me a paint-splattered mess of a canvas and I can roll with it. I can add more layers and elements easily.
I am good at cleaning up messes or covering up mistakes.
I can’t bear to touch a blank page: the white, the clean, the unspoiled.
I received these journals as a gift for Christmas last year. I asked for them.
Here is what they look like almost a year later:
I have looked at them. Flipped through the blank pages. I have jotted notes in my other journal of what I’d like to do with these journals. I have hidden them from the kids so that the covers remain pristine. For the life of me, I don’t know why I just can’t put anything in them.
In one of my favourite books on creativity, The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, Twyla Tharp talks about her empty room that is about to be filled with dancers:
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 go shopping or fix lunch or do chores around the house. They procrastinate. In its most extreme form, this terror totally paralyzes people.
This is me.
Days before a writing deadline, you can find me banging my head on the table, hyperventilating in a corner, re-organizing the laundry room or tossing and turning in bed trying to make sense of what I am going to write about.
But like Twyla Tharp, I find this nauseous state absolutely exhilarating. It’s crazy. I have these internal battles with myself where I am screaming, “Just write shit down!!!” With each project, it’s the same thing. It takes 95% of my creative energy just to show up and the rest is easy. Each time I show up instead of quitting, everything always falls into place – whether it’s writing or homeschool planning or planning a workshop/class.
As I was paying attention to this fear of the blank page, I noticed how my kids don’t seem to be intimidated by a blank piece of paper.
They are the other extreme – they go through reams of paper. #5 spent an entire morning drawing jungle animals after hearing his story “Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,” said the Sloth. As I write this post, he is designing a bamboo playground for sloths and lemurs. He grabbed a blank page as soon as he woke up and put pen to paper.
I’ve mentioned that I love doing my chalkboard drawings for my kids. I really do. But I have a very clear topic that I draw each week. There is no blank chalkboard with a mandate to draw anything. If that was a rule for drawing on my chalkboard, I would never commit to drawing anything.
I decided to finally write something in my blank notebook from last Christmas.
Try these exercises:
1. Write any words that come to mind that describe the “essentials” of your life. (I am not quite done with that page above.) It’s like a word cloud of everything that is important to you.
2. On the opposite page, draw an imaginary constellation.
3. Connect the dots and/or stars.
4. Start one morning off this week with your family drawing on a blank page. Sit around the table with a blank paper and draw or write whatever comes to mind.
Just because. Call it a reminder of who you are or a way to clear your thoughts and sort out the darks and the lights. It can be an exercise in exploring words and what lies beneath. To play. To do something without an end game. The constellation is your own. Connecting the dots is a symbolic gesture of making the intention to connect the dots within your own life – a surprise phone call, an unexpected encounter, a challenging experience, lost and found relationships, a small miracle.
A blank page is where the magic happens.
“To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing… When I find myself facing a blank page, that’s always going through my head. What I capture in spite of myself interests me more than my own ideas.” – Pablo Picasso
This is what I tell myself and my children.
Begin to draw. Begin to write. Begin your story. Begin with a single word. Begin with a simple line.
Just show up to the party and things will take shape beyond what you had planned or expected. Show up to this life.
In our house, we give second chances…and third and fourth, etc. If any of the kids are having a rough time, I tell them that we can always start fresh. We can begin again right now. Each moment is a blank page.
What will you do with your blank page today?
Quasi-diary entry #2:
Tomorrow I will pick another prompt for the week and clarify my ideas for sharing on Facebook or here. I intended to finish this post on the weekend and post a brand new prompt today but my husband was working all weekend and that doesn’t leave me much time for myself. Thank you for your patience and support as I continue to sort out what I am doing here.
Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on last week’s entry – #9: Begin Anywhere. Any fears of beginning new ventures? Starting from scratch? What if you were given carte blanche to do anything, what would you do?