Guest post by Christin Taylor
Let's begin with what's terrifying about the blank page: it holds all of our ideas and none of our ideas at the same time. When we look at that beautiful white expanse, we see possibilities. We imagine a work of art.
Yet when we sit down to write, our hands turn to cement and the words come out ugly and lethargic and lazy and we are mortified. So we put down our pens, or we stop typing, and we push ourselves away from the desk thinking, "Next time. It has to be better next time."
But all the while we're haunted by this fear that perhaps it won't. Perhaps next time will be just as bad as this time and we will be what we have feared all along - "failures" and "wannabes".
Here is the cruel irony of the blank page: While it lures us with its pristine landscape, we must first cover it with mud. There is simply no other way to write. It is a brutal act of faith. In writing, we must unleash a mess onto the page and then reach inward and grab hold of every last thread of trust, believing without sight that: "It will be beautiful. You'll see. Just don't walk away."
And here is where we have to unravel the voices in our heads, telling us not to mark on the white walls with crayons, not to scribble over the white couches with markers. Everything white must stay white or be complemented by something as beautiful and perfect as its elegant planes.
But with the blank page we must give ourselves permission to make it messy. Not just visually messy with black scrawls wiggling across the page. But also mentally messy, audibly messy. We must allow ourselves to write terrible, humiliating prose.
Because here's the other irony: Beauty follows ashes. That which is lovely does not rise out of the pristine hollows of the universe, but out of the roiling, disjointed substance of our lives. That is the act of creation: redemption. God can create something out of nothing, but we create something out of the grit of our lives.
So the blank page cannot stay blank for long. You will not magically create beauty without ever messing up, or falling out of the lines, or scratching across the margins. It just won't happen.
But there is a final image that presses itself against my mind: a rusty spigot, with a lever handle. You crank and crank the handle and the spigot sucks water out of the earth. The first sprays are nasty and muddy and rusty, but you do not stop pumping because you know what is coming. If you stopped, the water would stop, and you'd never get to where you're heading. The more you pump, the faster the water flows, and soon the particles and dirt are dispersing, the water is getting clearer and colder and soon you are clasping diamond water in your hands, slurping up big satisfying gulps.
Writing is the same way. Sometimes when we look at the blank page, we carry the conviction that we can only spill the cleanest, most satisfying water on it, but this is not true. You are a rusty spigot, and the water will not come unless you pump the handle. And you pump the handle by picking up your pen and writing, or moving your fingers heavily across the keys. And though the thoughts and words that come out may be murky and rusty and dirty, don't quit. Clear water is coming soon.
Christin Taylor lives in Bellingham, Washington, with her husband Dwayne, their 3-year-old daughter Noelle, and their new Taylor Tot expected in July of 2011. In addition to being Noelle's personal chef, chauffeur, laundress, and playmate, Christin runs the Blank Page Writing Workshops online. Her work has appeared in Brain World Magazine, Ungrind, as well as other online and print publications. She is currently finishing her first book-length manuscript about the metaphorical shipwreck many young adults face after graduating from college. If you'd like to learn more about The Blank Page online writing workshops as well as Christin's writing, go to www.christintaylor.com.
What scares you most about the blank page? Any comments or questions for Christin?
*Notebook photo by nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
**Paint photo by Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
***Water photo by africa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net