- Laura Blackledge
Getting Back on the Horse (or: Don't Fear the Empty Page)
So. That was summer then.
A lot of fun was had, and not very much work was done at all.
At the start of the summer, a bright shimmering vista of possibilities stretched out before me: I was newly graduated, no longer constrained by the limitations of academic briefs (they chafe terribly), and free to bring my searing artistic visions to the world at large - whether it was ready for them or not.
Then the schools let out and I was unaccountably busy for about six weeks.
Then, when the dust settled, and the packed lunch boxes had been dug out of storage, and the picnic blankets and swimming costumes had been packed away again, I was ready to get back to all that exciting artistic searing I had planned, and...
My god that page is very blank.
I should fill it with something.
I had literally hundreds of ideas ready for when this moment came.
That's way too many to choose from. How do I know which one I should start with?
Better have a cup of tea and a few packets of biscuits while I decide...
And so it goes. The Creative sits down in front of that first hurdle, paralysed with fear and indecision, and watches the hurdle grow to mythic proportions until the thought of tackling it becomes too overwhelming to even contemplate, and the mighty Blank Page claims yet another victim.
Not everyone screeches to a halt for the same reason. In my case, I simply lost momentum. When you build up a good head of creative steam, it's easy to believe that this burst of energy is never going to end, and that you will simply soar on towards the horizon forever on fiery wings of excited confidence and mixed metaphors. But stubborn reality has a habit of getting in the way, either with the mundane and practical demands of everyday life, or with other, more creative-specific lego bricks in the dark, like self-doubt, less than favourable feedback, or just good old fashioned Impostor Syndrome.
But I've decided that this time will be different.
The Blank Page will not be enemy. It never was my enemy.
The Blank Page is the artist's (or writer's, or musician's, or designer's, or stumped mid-week cook's) best friend and ally.
Because it's never The Blank Page.
It was never the only one.
There's hundreds more of the buggers right behind it.
As many as you need!
The Blank Page doesn't exist, it's just A Blank Page, and there's a whole book full of them right behind it, and then another, endlessly refilling shelf after shelf of metaphorical books full of blank pages after that.
If you mess this one up, just get another one.
Literally no one even has to know.
Take another sheet and draw that idea you've been thinking about for weeks but didn't know how to start out, really badly.
See what you did wrong and what you can change.
Take another sheet.
Just draw willies on this one while you think of what to do next.
Take another sheet.
Draw that idea you had out better this time, this could maybe go somewhere.
And so on.
Stop being terrified by the pristine, intimidating perfection of the blank page. It's not the boss of you. You're the boss of it. It's only function in life is to serve you. Start small if you need to. If you have a beautiful journal or sketchbook you don't want to sully with anything less than artistic perfection; don't. Draw or write on scraps of paper you don't care about. Then throw them away. Or stick them into the book (all the best looking sketchbooks have extra pages, and scraps of paper, and notes stuck into them until they're too thick to close properly any more). Or pin them on the wall and join them together with bits of string until your friends stage an intervention. But make those marks. Not a single masterpiece, in any genre, field, or medium ever, sprang into existence whole, perfect, and fully formed (looking at you, Coleridge). Every single piece of creative work you love started out as a few scribbles of some kind, and was improved on from there.
So that's going to be my new (academic) year's resolution:
I will no longer fear the Blank Page.
I will embrace the blank page and stop worrying about what it will think if it sees me with no make-up on.
Me and the Blank Page are in this together for the long haul, and it's high time we started working together, instead of me thinking it was in charge. So make those mistakes; fill that waste paper bin; welcome the ideas that end up going nowhere, or turn into something completely different once they're down in black and white. The perfect is the enemy of the good. Do a hundred terrible drawings and work with the one out of a hundred you like - if you don't do the hundred crap ones, you'll never get to the good one. A drawing you hate isn't a failure, it's a brick in the foundations of a piece you love. No one cares what the foundations look like, or even needs to see them, but the finished piece can't exist without them.
So with that in mind, I'd better get to work, there's a LOT of blank pages out there to make friends with...