To a writer, the blank page and the blinking cursor can be things of nightmares. Like those three little anticipatory dots in a text, they say so much and so little all at once. All of these things signal something. The beginning. The end. Or somewhere in between. Like Poe’s raven (or other symbols), it tempts you and sometimes drives you a bit crazy.
I’ve been thinking a lot about blank pages this week. As you know, I write full time. By day, I write for a local nonprofit organization, hopefully lending my gifts as a writer to the betterment of the organization. By night, I write whatever my heart desires, from poetry (if you haven’t checked out my tiny poems, you can find me on Instagram at @writervsworld) to novels. I look at a lot of blinking cursors and blank pages and I do a lot of synthesizing of things that really have nothing to do with one another until I make them and a lot of creating something out of nothing.
The blank page has been on my mind this week because I finally took the leap. I’ve been planning and character building for the past few weeks. I’ve started outlining, but felt inclined to start writing even though the outlining isn’t done – not a normal part of the process for me. I’ve talked myself out of several projects over the past year and had gotten to the point that I started to think I wouldn’t write another novel. But, this week, I stared at the blank page for a while, stopped making excuses and took a breath and started writing.
As these things go, it’ll be fits and starts for a while. It never comes easy in the beginning, sort of like when you restart working out after a lengthy hiatus. But, the flow will improve and the story will come as it will. I already know where chapters 1, 2 and 3 are headed, so I anticipate writing for the next couple of weeks. Hopefully the next few chapters will make sense after this and I can continue. This isn’t my typical process, as I’ve said. But, this story isn’t a typical project either. After writing fantasy so long, making the leap to straight fiction is tough and daunting. I can’t rely on a good fight scene to advance the plot and there’s no sorcery or magic, no warriors or royalty. Instead, I’m dependent on the small moments of everyday people – the side conversations, the day-to-day to make my point and advance the story.
The best part of this new project though? Well, I get to write about a place that I have loved for a long time. A place that I have long wanted to be part of a story. Is it weird that it’s a beautiful country cemetery? Maybe. But, I’m writing in that space now – and hopeful that my mom and I can visit the real cemetery over Memorial Weekend like our family has done for decades and generations (it’ll depend on the COVID-19 situation of course later this month).
There’s a lot to be found in a blank page or behind a blinking cursor. They aren’t much for fuel or a catalyst because we writers truly create something from nothing (an achievement that physics says is impossible unless you have a perfect vacuum which, in and of itself, isn’t really possible). But, we do it. Like magic. So, next time you get down on yourself about your writing or even the lack thereof, remember this. With your art, you defy physics. And, your catalyst is within you, which means you have the power to create.
Happy writing, friends!