On the one hand, I am somewhat irked that WordPress had the temerity to go and create a first post for me without so much as a by-your-leave… on they other hand, it was titled “hello world”, which appeals to my tiny little inner programming geek. Consider yourself forgiven, WordPress – but you’re still on notice.
I was pondering just how to begin; first forays into a new communication medium are always somewhat intimidating to me. I like to begin as I mean to go on: bold! Insightful! Meaningful! It’s a lot of pressure to put on myself, and sometimes ends up hamstringing me.
This is the problem often encountered, not just by myself, when sitting down to write anything new. I’m a notebook addict. cheapo spiral-bound jobbies, gorgeous tooled leather journals, handmade rough-edge items with the spines stitched together by my own hand, I have them all. But for a long time, I would buy them, and carry them around along with a pen, and they would more often than not serve simply as props. Some of them, it took me years to ever write anything in them beyond my name on the inside of the cover. But I’m a writer! So what the hell is the problem?
The curse of the blank page – or in our delightful modern age, the curse of the blank screen. The unmarked white paper gleams menacingly. The cursor blinks in mockery. It’s a problem that pretty much any writer I have spoken to has dealt with at some time, though I’m sure our reasons for it differ. For me, it was what that whitespace represented. It’s blank, and ostensibly therefore nothing, right?
There’s a line in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog, “Even in the darkness every color can be found.” It’s much the same idea: in the whiteness of that unmarked page, of that untyped screen, I see the potential for anything and everything. It has not been written, and therefore what could be written there could be anything. It could be a brain-tweaking poem, a sweeping space epic, a political intrigue, a sensual bildungsroman fit to make a sociopath weep in empathy.
Or… it could be crap. A waste of ink, a waste of paper, a waste of electricity, screen time, writing time, and of a reader’s time. The fear that it would be this latter was nigh unto paralyzing to me for a long time. Fear is the mind-killer, fear is the little-death – and not the sort of little death with which I like to concern myself.
It was a professor who taught me how to face and move beyond this fear, though he didn’t realize it at the time. I took a few creative writing classes with Dr. Leslie, and he talked as freely with us about some of the projects he had in the works as he expected us to do with him. At one point, he was writing a series of short stories that all began in the same way: “Let me tell you a story about my girl, Sue.” Every story went off in a different direction from there, but each one started the same.
The idea stuck in my head a while, and burst forth one year as I was setting myself to begin the NaNoWriMo challenge. That particular year, I began my writing every day with the same six words. “Once a month, I visit him.” Every day I wrote a new piece of the same developing story, and every time it started with those words. Six little words, but the difference they made in breaking into my own writing was invaluable. They were already there for me. I had something to start with. No matter what was on my plate to write up that day, I didn’t need to worry about how to begin. The words were written, the page was marked, and I could carry on without worrying about my inane fear of sullying the potential of the page that lay before me.
This isn’t to say that I don’t sometimes struggle, or hate what I write even as I’m typing it out – but I’m making something, which therefore can get edited and fixed after the fact. I am not being ruled by my fear. My notebooks are not props; they are tools.
Hello, world. Let me tell you a little story about my writing,