What Is It About a Blank White Page?

I’ve been writing for a good while now. I’ve got all kinds of notebooks, binders, sheafs of paper.

Yet lately, I’ve started noticing that something… different happens when I sit down in front of my computer, start OpenOffice and create a new document.

It’s this compulsion to write something.

See, I carry a few notebooks with me. One that’s roughly A5 size that I use for brainstorming. A couple of pocket ones (always a good idea to bring a spare) for when ideas hit me out of the blue and I want to get them down, whether they be plot twists, character concepts, items of shopping or things to do when back at my desk at work.

I even have a sheaf of lined, hole-punched paper on my desk at home for writing down to-dos in my system of personal organisation (oh, all right, go ahead and laugh).

But none of that stuff, not even the brainstorming, I consider “writing.”

It’s only when I get that blank white page in front of me on my screen that I think I’m honestly creating something, something that I intend to put in front of someone else’s eyes.

I can’t just use that blank white page for doodling, note taking, making bulleted lists. It feels like a waste of a good, blank page. I have paper for that. Heck, if I want to get ideas down digitally so that I can juggle with their arrangement, their order, I always have Evernote (thank you, Marcus).

But just what is it about that blank, white page that means “business” in a way that notepads and sheets of paper don’t?

It’s neatness. My handwriting is a mess, anyone who knows me personally knows this (especially my wife and anyone I’ve worked with). It’s slowly getting better, but even so it’s nothing presentable.

Not only that, but I know that if I’m going to use what I write down, sooner or later I’ll have to transcribe it.

But I know that when I’m typing, the product is going to be neat, legible, consumable.

It’s quickness. I’m not the most proficient touch typist, and I have this compulsion to correct any errors immediately. Still, typing on a keyboard feels more immediately stream-of-consciousness than writing by hand, which is slower, more suited to notes and bullet points than getting an idea out of my head and onto the page.

But ultimately, that blank white page is something else.

It’s perfection.

I’m a perfectionist. The amount of stuff that I’ve started but not finished simply because of the gulf I perceive between my level of skill and the ideal of “good” in my head, well… It’d fill a house. There are articles I can write about the various Step Ones around the place I could be Making Fun with.

(Heck, there’s another started-but-not-finished thing right there.)

Why start when I can’t make something good, something… perfect?

That blank white page, though, tells me everything I need to know about perfection. It’s a simple message, really.

If I want perfection, all I have to do… is nothing.

If I don’t write, that white page goes untouched. Remains pristine. Unblemished. Perfect.

So when I sit down to make black marks all over it, I’m destroying perfection. Creating chaos. Mess. Something that won’t measure up to an ideal.

But something that I need to create anyway. I can’t go on without doing it.

Well, I can. But I’m going to be pretty miserable, shuttering myself away because I can’t measure up to my own impossibly high standards.

And as my wife will attest, I’ve spent more than enough time being miserable for no real point.

This isn’t a gunna post. Gunnas are more ideals, more things I’ll do eventually and castigate myself for never getting around to.

But I will say that that blank page is starting to loom large in my mind, that I’m starting to appreciate it.

That one of the thoughts that gets me going nowadays is, “What can I put on that blank white page?

“How can I destroy perfection?”

But how about you?

How do you go about destroying perfection every day?

In the fun you make, what’s prep and what’s action?

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