The blank page
The metaphor of a blank page is often used to indicate a fresh start. It suggests emptiness, liberation, an escape from something that was previously there, a break from the past. I have enjoyed this metaphor a lot as an artist. Creators are content providers. A blank page is an invitation to create something new.
But a blank page can also be terrifying. It can seem like an endless expanse. It can be intimidating to look at ‘nothing’ that is telling you to do something with it, especially when you have no content to provide and a deadline is coming up. The blank page can seem like a huge desert, miles and miles of sand without an oasis in sight.
This is where I am right now. After the elections, where I gave my heart and soul to the campaign, I feel depleted, empty, stumped. I am a car running on empty, a ship without a sail meandering in the open sea, a comic who can’t think of a punchline to save himself.
This is not the first time I encounter a scary blank page. Some people who experience this go on a hiatus. They take a break. It works for them. Others stay on and try to overcome the fear and fight on until they ‘win’ over it. I don’t know what would work better for me.
I could not come up with a column last week. And here I am trying to
write one now on why I can’t write a column.
I normally see a creative block as a challenge. I want to face that
challenge, even if it seems like I have no tools to fight it. Right now I am staring at the void and trying to find its contours. Does it have any?
Maybe. Hopefully. If this is a prison, it must have bars, walls, a lock.
But where do I find them?
I think of something Miles Davis said about music: “In music, silence is more important than sound.” There! If this applies to writing as well, I must be on to something.
Perhaps I have it all wrong about the blank page. It may not be the prison I think it is. I must be in another prison and I am looking at the blank page from where I am. The blank page is where I need to be.
I am in a prison inside myself and I need to get out. To find out how, I must look inside the empty spaces inside me. How do I do that? How do
I liberate myself?
I have booked a vacation where I have no planned agenda. When I get there, I plan to do nothing. I have no great goals, to pursuit of my bucket list. I just intend to relax and see what happens. This is an attempt at just “being.”
But at this moment, I am amazed that I have written so many words talking about how “depleted” I am of creativity. Yet I am alive, and I am the source of everything I have so far written here. And even when I claim I am empty, I have come up with something.
There is a Zen saying that, “Emptiness is form, and form is emptiness.”
This has many deep levels of meaning. I am not sure I understand them all but maybe I am within the territory of its truth. From nothing, I have actually come up with something. And this “something” I have created so far is about nothing.
A Vietnamese poem says,
If the cosmos exists, then the smallest speck of dust exists.
If the smallest speck of dust doesn’t exist,
then the whole cosmos doesn’t exist.
I must not panic. There is no such thing as emptiness even if we never encountered
form. It exists because its opposite exists. Emptiness must be seen as
“empty of something.”
Sometimes, I write and write well. There are times I hardly have anything to say.
This column you are reading is the state of the art of where I am right now. It is the
truth that I am at this moment. I am both empty and full.
Writing and not being able to write for whatever reason are part of life.
This is reality. And whatever the reason, that is its own power. It is simply being itself and we all must deal with it.
Writing, when it is good, is like water flowing. But when water appears in the form of ice, does it lose its substance as water?
I don’t know. That is another topic to write about.