One of the simultaneous joys and terrors of writing is the blank page. When the writing flows, you rapidly fill this sea of whiteness with a flood of words and thoughts. The high of creation is intoxicating as you create what had not yet existed. On the other end of the spectrum, when you experience a bout of writer’s block, the blank page mocks you and you stare into this void.
Thankfully, I have rarely experienced writer’s block when it comes to these columns. I have struggled with it more in my larger creative works of essays and stories and in the forthcoming semester— poems. What I have learned is that it is my own mind, my fears, my anxieties that often keep me from putting pen to paper. I write something, look at it and cringe or groan in despair at how inadequate or terrible it is. With the advent of technology, I no longer find myself surrounded with a mountain of crumpled paper, instead the offending prose disappears into my trash bin or is simply erased and replaced with a new effort.
As I write this column on the last day of one year to be read early in the next year, I cannot help to notice how analogous my writing process is to how I compose or attempt to compose my life. How many of us are excited with the mostly blank page of the new year? 2020 sits before us and we have energy and optimism that when we revisit our lives a year from now, it will be with the satisfaction of a year well lived.
Many of us are now in the midst of writing our resolutions, making a list of things we will do or things we will avoid, perhaps from lessons learned in years past. Some of these items seem daunting, but in the dawn of this new year our confidence allows us to embrace the challenge of the days and months to come.
And yet, do we not also censor or limit ourselves based on fear and uncertainty. Just as I am often discouraged by my writing, we are often defeated by our own self-doubt and negative thinking. The blankness of the page scares us and we often sit paralyzed before our future.
Several years ago, I read an essay regarding academic writing that approached the difficulty of composing a thesis or dissertation by observing how much would be accomplished if you produced a mere two pages a day. At the end of a year, you would have over 700 pages of writing. While this essay focused on academic writing, the same would be true for a novelist, essayist or memoirist. Two pages a day would make the inevitable process of revision much easier.
What is to prevent us from doing the same with our lives? If we purposefully devote part of each day to accomplishing our life goals, I find it difficult to believe we would not make significant process towards achieving our goals and maintaining whatever resolutions we set for ourselves. The future often seems frightening because like the blank page it is unknown and unwritten. But the best part of this process is that we as the author of the lives have the power to write the future we desire.
Nicolas Shump is a longtime educator and writer in northeast Kansas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.