Inkspill No. 11: The Blank Page

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The best way to begin writing is with a blank page. That may sound obvious, but really a blank page is more than just a piece of paper. It’s a state of mind; a preparedness to calmly face that fresh legal pad, pen in hand, ready to simply write. No agendas, no notions conceived in a stew of guilt (beginning: what or how much I should have written; ending: what I should now write). The beauty of the blank page is that there’s always another one. If you mess one up and don’t want to continue it, you can easily get another one and start afresh.

You do not need a legal pad, of course. That is just my preferred scribbling ground (yellow, please, not white!) Your blank page awaits you wherever you like to do your thing–your journal, your computer, your typewriter if you’re one of those retro enthusiasts, your dinner napkin. Furthermore, that smooth white horizon is not merely open to those identifying as “writers”. The blank page invites everyone to taste the freedom of putting one’s very own hidden thoughts down where one’s eyes can see them. Writing is proof that thoughts are real things. Aided by the twitch of a pen, the stroke of a keyboard, they enter the concrete world, and change it.

The blank page intimidates a lot of people. In my case, it has only truly daunted me at the times when I saw it as an opportunity to satiate my vanity. “You must write to impress,” Vanity cries; but I cannot operate this way for long before I collapse under the pressure. The blank page, you see, is so much bigger than you or me, and too important to be graffitied with anybody’s vanity. It is possibility made tangible. That’s how we should look at it: a way to exercise freedom, a place to practice the mind of Christ and leave our own cramped ideas behind. There’s no reason why people from every walk of life, from royalty to sales clerks, may not sit down from time to time and simply write. Some have song lyrics stirring inside them. Others, observations gathered on their travels. Others could write yarns that leave people in stitches, or chilling stories that give perspective on what’s really important in life. For my part, I write most strongly in letters. Writing to somebody, so they have a piece of my friendship to hold in their hand, is among the great joys of my life.

Perhaps your writing mission is as simple as writing lists of things you’re thankful for. (I really recommend this exercise. It may not change the world but it will change your world.) It doesn’t matter if you’ve never written anything outside of work or school in your life. If you have thoughts, then you have words. Don’t forget to approach your blank page free of any preconceived ideas about what writing should be. If you know Jesus at all, you can get quiet and He will tell you what belongs on that page, and on all the others after it. The words may seem too out-there, too simple, too wacky, too dark, too bright or too cheesy. But you can be sure that there’s a person out there who needs to read what you can write.

Even if the person is only you.

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2 thoughts on “Inkspill No. 11: The Blank Page

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