The Blank Page 3


FACING a blank page, I wonder, how should I fill it? What can or should I say?

I’ve heard writers tell tales about how the blank page fills them with dread. They worry about what they will write. Wonder how they can communicate something meaningful. Agonize about what it means to be creative. Self-Doubt and Criticism walk uninvited into the writer’s mind and create such a din, the writer can only distract herself, by checking her email or doing the laundry—anything to get away from that blank page and those horrible visitors.

But there’s another way to approach the blank page—with Whimsy. She’s so much more fun to play with than Self-Doubt and Criticism, and it only takes a little vigilance to keep them out. After all, these characters can only come in when allowed. If, as soon as we hear their voices, we tell them to leave, they have no choice; they must go.

Whimsy, sister to Joy and Imagination, loves to fill pages with broad strokes. If she doesn’t like what she’s done, she uses another color and starts again. She smiles as she works, enjoys the process, and is not concerned with the outcome. She knows that whatever she does will have meaning, because it comes from a place of deep internal motivation. She understands that whatever there is to be shared will find its way to the light of day. And this blank page—no longer blank perhaps—is the perfect playground in which to let it emerge.

Usually,
once Whimsy gets started, Joy and Imagination (who can’t stand to be left out of anything) sneak in. I say they should be welcomed with open arms and invited into the mind, because when all three sisters are present, there is much laughter, and writing becomes fun. Joy and Imagination encourage Whimsy as she works. Imagination, in particular, loves to brainstorm and give Whimsy ideas.

Later, after the three sisters have done their work, I like to invite their aunt, Refinement, to join us for tea. Whimsy is a wonderful guest, but when she’s done she feels exhausted and needs a nap. Refinement, always thoughtful and constructive, appraises Whimsy’s work. If the writer agrees (Refinement always asks permission), she’ll invite Skill along, and together the two add detail, correct minor mistakes, and move things around so that the reader’s eye can flow from one part to the next, taking in the entire work.

We writers need only lend our hands and hearts to this process. It’s a thing of beauty, a kind of miracle, really. Like watching a flower unfold in all its unique, perfect loveliness, feelings, flavors, and colorful words fill the page, until a story is born.

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