Fear creeps in immediately, scratching its way into the pit of your stomach the very moment you register the void before you. The limitless vanilla hollow. It’s unlike any other phobia. I am afraid of spiders. Of heights. Of flying.
But there is nothing in this world that terrifies me more than the blank page.
No matter how much I’ve mapped the way, the first question I always ask myself is the same: “What do I say?” But even a notion that basic is a distilled version of the most intrinsic insecurity to ever define my life. So the question, really, is, “Do I have what it takes to create something meaningful again?” Following that, an even deeper exploration: “Did I ever have it in the first place?”
And that’s when Fear opens an old wound and invites Panic to slither on in.
Panic quickly latches onto Fear. The effect is binary and devastating.
What if the jokes don’t come? What if all the funny is gone? What if I’ve used up all of my good ideas? What if I never WAS that funny in the first place? What if the concept of “good ideas” is a myth I created to placate myself? What am I doing here?
It’s not possible, I forcefully convince myself. No one can “run out” of ideas. No one can “run out” of life experiences to draw from. One cannot just become inert and immune to the world around him.
But one CAN get stale. One CAN repeat the past too often. One CAN find himself stuck hopelessly in a comfort zone of safeness and familiarity and repetition. I see it every day. I know that IS a possibility for me. Maybe an eventuality. Perhaps a present condition. Hell, it might have happened a long time ago.
What if it’s already over and I don’t know it? What if it never began in the first place? What if I NEVER had anything to say?
The blink of the cursor becomes a mocking, clownish smirk. Type something, you idiot. Anything. You can wipe away that smile with just a few turns of phrase.
Some days, I fail to do so. Some days, Panic is just too great to overcome.
Other days, the Stories inside me make enough of a commotion that they drown out Panic’s siren song, and fingers end up hitting keys. Words flow and worlds appear, expand, populate, focus. Then the Stories quiet…just long enough, of course, for Panic to cloak itself in heavy vestments, morphing into Doubt. And in doing so it becomes a much greater, much more pervasive force.
The blank page still has the potential to turn into something great. It theoretically *could* be anything. But what I’ve just written? It’s begging to be judged by its harshest critic: me. It is inexorable. It is THERE. And Doubt will have you know that, by simply being, it fails.
And I find myself crippled at the realization. Paralyzed. Bias confirmed.
This is where I could give up. And, in all reality, maybe I should. Doubt is an enthusiastic fan of this idea.
But I don’t. I never do. Why?
The philosophy forever presents itself: Doubt is rooting for the wrong team. And it’s on my turf. I have the home field advantage.
Fingers hit keys again. Words flow and worlds are destroyed, rebuilt entirely, expanded using different tools, populated anew. Instead of silently fading away, the Stories push to the forefront, begging to be given further passage. In the end, they number so many that Doubt is squeezed out the very hole it burgled in through. The exit is sealed from within, now better fortified for the next breach. But it will not impenetrable, mind you.
Because Fear will always find a way, and it will forever drag Panic along with it. In their union they will leave Doubt. And the cycle will perpetuate itself.
But I embrace their return. Their existence has become a cause for action, an apparition that I rely on to disrupt me, but that which I also eventually extinguish. They are, in their own way, an integral cog in the machine.
Because there is nothing in the world I need more than the blank page.