In the Mood for the Blank Page

Like many writers I know, I am not always in the mood to write when I sit down to write. This used to worry me some when I was younger writer. Why, I would wonder, did the story that so easily had my complete attention yesterday seem a distant and inscrutable thing today? My first and most worrisome answer was that the story had never really been all that interesting in the first place, that the Bill of Yesterday was fooled by what the Bill of Today was able to perceive clearly. This answer creates a hostile environment for writing. If I cannot trust what interests me in the moment, how can I possibly know what to write? By and by I came to understand that my mood rarely had anything to do with the story I was writing. Rather, it was a reflection of my relationship to what that story was written on – namely, a blank page.

Most of my life does not feel like a blank page. When I’m not writing, there’s lots of stuff all around me to look at and listen to and be stimulated by. There are video games and movies and sports and lots and lots and lots of people to talk to. When I’m not writing, it can seem as if that external world is responsible for all that interests me and doesn’t interest me. I don’t have to do anything, and that world just keeps producing stuff for me to read or watch, and people for me to teach, or kiss, or have dinner with.

Then I sit down to write, and the blank page asks me, “What do you want?” In that instant the illusion dissolves, and I remember that nothing outside of me is responsible for my interest in life. Now I have connected to the authentic source, which is never on TV or across the dinner table from me. If I am not in the mood to write at that moment, it is because I am still a little hypnotized by what I’ve been seeing and hearing.

Fortunately, the blank page is as patient as it is empty. My mind can wander as far and wide as it wants, and the page will still be there with its generous question. As soon as I return from my travels, as soon as I hear the page’s question clearly, I am back at home, curious, interested, and in the mood to find again a path from myself into life.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion.

"A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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