Filling Blank Pages
April 14, 2015 § 30 Comments
A guest post from Kate Parrish:
Sometimes (every week) I sit down to write and I stare at the blank page and wonder in terror how the words in my head that I haven’t thought of yet will make it onto the page. Where will they come from? What will they look like? But most importantly, will they appear at all? And at some point each week, without fail, there comes a moment when I think, Nope, I don’t have it in me this week. I have nothing to say about anything. I should just quit and eat some snacks instead.
But also each week, without fail, I think, Oh, stop being so dramatic and just write something. I’ll give you a snack if you just finish something. And never one to turn down food, I return to the blank page one more time.
The words appear; they always do. They aren’t always the words I like, the words I expect, or the words I want, but something always shows up to fill the blank page. Sentences and paragraphs I never knew existed find a home outside my head on the page.
What I’ve learned, too, in writing each week is that I’m a terrible judge of my own work. Many times the articles I love, the ones that get me super fired up when I’m writing them might get little or no response, and the ones where I feel like maybe I said too much or didn’t say enough or didn’t even make sense will really resonate with people. But I forget all this when I sit down to face the blank page each week. I forget that I don’t really know what is or isn’t going to connect with people, that where I am in my life might align perfectly with some and not at all with others, and that no matter what, it really is all okay. What I have to remember though is that I’ll never find out what works and what doesn’t, who connects and who doesn’t, what helps me and what helps others if I write nothing at all.
You don’t have to be a writer to know the ache of a “blank page.” Everyone has their own blank page, the thing they’re terrified won’t get filled. It’s the parent unsure of how he’ll entertain his kids all day, until lunch even (but he does); it’s the unemployed person who can’t submit one more resume (but she does); or it’s the runner who can’t see the mile marker around the bend (until he does). We don’t know what we’re made of, who we’ll connect with, or what we’ll achieve until we show up.
Embrace the blank page. Roll around in it. Fill up the lines and margins with effort; with trial and error; with excitement and joy some days and fear and disgust the next. Just don’t leave it blank. Be glad for blank pages. They mean there is still more good work to be done.
Kate Parrish is an MFA candidate at The University of the South located in Sewanee, Tenn. When she’s not in school, Kate lives in Nashville, where she writes a weekly blog, Aiming for Okay at www.aimingforokay.com.