Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Blank Page

My friend Stephanie and I were talking about the fear of the blank page last week.  I had given her a composition book that I had decorated and she told me she was afraid to start using it, as she didn't want to "mess up" the blank pages.  But of course, that is what the book is for, to fill with writing or drawing or pictures cut out of magazines or whatever might strike her fancy.

This fear is not an uncommon one.  If you Google "fear of the blank page", you will find a number of interesting articles and ideas about why this happens and how to overcome it.  Whatever way you choose to express your creativity, there are times when we all face the fear or the dread or, in my case, the avoidance, of the blank page or the empty canvas or the open flame of the torch or getting up on that horse.  Sometimes, no matter how much you know you will love doing it once you get going, taking that first step, actually making a start at a project, can be intimidating.

For me , it doesn't seem to happen every time.  Some days, I can get going with no problem whatsoever.  Other days, even though I feel a powerful urge to create something, I can't seem to make the first move.  Or it takes me hours to get started, because I've somehow done all sorts of other things instead that have taken up time and then suddenly, the day is almost over and I realize that if I don't start right away, another day will have gone by without me doing anything towards starting whatever it is that I have been avoiding.  Of course, once I do start, I usually end up wishing I had more time!

I believe it takes courage to take that first step forward, to add the first drop of paint to the page, click the shutter, move your pen across the paper or start typing on that blank screen.  Just like it takes courage to get out of bed every morning and face the day, whatever it might bring.  Some days, we hit the snooze button, roll over, pull the sheet over our head and delay that moment of starting but all the while, you can hear that voice inside saying, "sooner or later, you're going to have to get up.  You're going to have to face whatever it is that you are afraid of." 

It's okay to feel that way.  Give yourself permission to avoid whatever it is as long as you need to.  You'll know when you're ready.  In some cases, you will force yourself before you feel totally prepared and that might work or it might not.  Either way, it's okay to give yourself a break, cut yourself some slack. You just need to trust that eventually the day will come when you are somehow ready to just do it.  And then suddenly everything will flow so easily and so remarkably that you will wonder why you ever waited so long in the first place?!

When the time comes to begin, you have to turn off the voice in your head that says, "not just yet" and like the Nike slogan says, just do it. Jump in. Let go. Take flight.  Stop being afraid that something bad will happen.  As Henry Ward Hughes said, "worry is rust upon the blade."  You want to keep your blade shiny and sharp and ready to use. Chances are, that piece of art will turn out so much better than you ever thought.  And if it doesn't, so what? You'll deal with it and it won't be the end of the world. You can paint over it, rip it out and tear it up, delete the file, run over it the lawnmower, throw it away, whatever you want.  No matter what, it will be better to have made a bad work of art than no art at all!

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