Notes From Purgatory: To Live and Be Alive (on the Blank Page)


Ever since I first began writing stories in my mother’s basement at the age of eight, I’ve been infatuated with the blank page.

I still remember the thrill of punching black letters onto the white with her typewriter because the act represented true, organic creation to me.  Anything seemed possible when I began a new story.  In fact, I’ve worked hard to preserve such awe when sitting down to a new idea.  It still fuels my need to translate the strange thoughts beneath thoughts in the depths of my mind.

To me the blank page represents potential.  It is the one place where all writers are equal.  Before we all set that first word into existence, we are given the opportunity to create greatness.  We are at the same starting line as Stephen King or J.K. Rowling or any of our other successful colleagues.  Sure, at their level they are almost guaranteed to deliver something wonderful, but through refinement of our craft (not to mention countless attempts at peeling away the blank page), are we not privy to the same potential of a great story?

Well, maybe.

See, the blank page is a window of what could be.  Even so, success isn’t a guarantee.  And it shouldn’t be.  Professional success is earned by those who stare at the void of the blank page and accept its challenge.  Being a successful writer means bleeding away the white with precision of craft, confidence, and talent.  Was it not Michelangelo who freed angels from blocks of marble?  Are we not doing the same with black letters on a white canvas?

To tell true, writing is making something out of nothing, imprinting the DNA of our thoughts on the very void until something new has been manifested.  We must learn to accept the challenge of the blank page, to be confident in its defeat at our nimble fingers and the sharp points of our pens.  After all, isn’t writer’s block really just confronting the nothingness with nothing to say?

So we must be fearless, alive.  We must stare into the abyss with our steaming cups of coffee without flinching.  We have to laugh.  We have to love.  We must live and be alive on the blank page.

My point here is that with any blank page there exists raw potential and, as writers, it is our duty to do the best we can with what we have.  Each cut we make into the blank before us is a history that we author.  We who write are fortunate enough to create records of who we are through our stories and that, sometimes, people want to read them.  And it is all afforded to us by the promise of a blank page.

The void will always be there and so, too, the desire to fill it with creation, to accept the challenge of “what if.”  And we must be guides through the nothingness, to bridge the void with the architecture of imagination, to say “follow me” through space and time.

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