Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fear of Freedom: The Bland Page, the Blank Page and Typos

Writing is a great privilege, except when the biggest worry is, well, worry. It's that blank page again, staring you in the face, or it's the blank section of the page that seems to go forever after whatever you've just written. The dilemma is reminiscent of those writing assignments where the teacher said, "Write a 500-word essay on a topic of your choosing." At first, the freedom to chose was intoxicating, then slightly nauseating, then just plain mind-boggling. Where was one to go with all that open space, on the page and in one's head?

Then, suddenly, in the face of all that freedom, such as, what should I write in this blog today, there is the serendipitous mistake, like typing "bland" instead of "blank." It's just a typo, right? Yes, but it's more than a typo, it's now a topic.

The blank page can be scary, but the solution is comparatively straightforward. Write something on it. I know that sounds simplistic, but believe me, I know what it's like to feel as if you're having to rearrange your brain to construct a coherent thought. Although I'm empathetic, the answer is, don't give into the temptation to not write. One reason is that there's something even more important to learn: how to deal with the bland page.

The reason bland is worse than blank is akin to Mark Twain's observation, "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt." When we write, we risk, and one of the biggest risks is not coming off well on the written page. Yet, the concern here is misplaced, and this is where personal distance is essential. It's not us on that page; it's our writing. I know it feels the same, and in a prior post I noted that writing is personal. Yet, the paradox is that writing must also be impersonal. In the end, it isn't us on that page. We're more than that, and, as dignified creatures, we need to get beyond fixing the blank page to fixing bland writing. How does one deal with and remedy this? Glad you asked—see the first item in the Tips and Prompts section at the bottom of this blog. And, by all means, let me know how it goes.

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