What is it about a blank page that fills an author with so much dread? Is it the knowledge that they will soon spill their thoughts upon the world and make concrete what had, until then, been nothing more than vague images in their minds? Could it be that like a mother soon to give birth, they fear the parting of their ideas from the world of imagination into the cold, unforgiving realm of reality?
I find a blank page to be much more frightening than one filled with words. The blank space implied possibilities. Possibilities for something terrible or wonderful, or maybe both. The pen becomes a conduit between the mind and the paper, turning the fragile thoughts into words and phrases forever. I feel the danger in that; sticks and stones may break bones, but words can hurt even more. They can inspire or repulse, they can bring fear or hate, or love. How many have died for the words written in a few ancient texts? Words have power, and with power comes responsibility. That responsibility weighs heavy on the shoulders of a writer.
When the deed is done, the ink spilled upon the page, there is no longer a cohesiveness to the work. It’s gone from being a single thought into an amalgam of ideas, focused through the pen onto the page. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster of pieces and parts that resemble a whole but are really held together by stitching and grammatical alchemy. And like Shelley’s monster, the work can get away from an author if they aren’t careful.
Dreams aren’t formed on blank canvas, nor are stories. They exist in a rich tapestry inside the author’s mind. The act of forcing them to page is a dangerous thing, and it’s possible that the writer will not come out unscathed. Great care must be taken, all consequences weighed, before the author begins, and even once they are in the middle, they must think of how the ending will change the story, will take it away from them. It is a lonely thing, to give your thoughts to the page and ask it to keep them safe. It is not a selfish thing, no matter the subject, for it is always a giving and never a taking.
There is nothing so frightening as those blank pages waiting to be filled, but the readers will never know, and we, the authors, go on, like circus performers reminding them to ignore the man behind the curtain. Yes, enjoy our work, but don’t try to imagine what it’s like to create those works. That’s for us, that’s our burden to bear.
And we do it for love of our art.