when the blank space stares at you
There are times when as a writer I feel stuck. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy writing and coming up with an essay or a passage for you every single day to keep you inspired and help you garner a new insight and get a newer and better perspective. Inspiring you keeps me inspired.
But there are days when I sit down, set my timer up and do nothing but stare at the blank space in front of me contemplating what to write about. As minutes go by, I feel pressure building up inside me. Self-doubt and fear emerge and expand within me. And then gradually, there comes a moment when the bulb goes off and an idea, insight or a story that I want to share with you comes rushing to me. After that, there’s no looking back. I take off. I start typing and pouring words in the blank space. I’ve won for the day, I’ve taken charge for the day. I don’t know about tomorrow, but today I’m victorious.
When I started this commitment of writing and posting one essay or passage every day, I had a confidence within me, but I was also scared. What if I run out of ideas, what if I fail, what if this entire endeavor goes south and no one reads. But now I’m glad I knew better, I believed in the abundance around me. What ifs are always the stealers of success, happiness and profound joy. So, I started this journey, and I can say it has been a great ride so far. Yes, challenging occasionally (many times actually!) but immensely fulfilling.
Battling with the self-doubt, fear and anxiety with regard to writing and performing well still affects me every single day. Some days, writing is easy and words flow naturally and effortlessly. And some days, words are scarce and the muse is distant and not in sight. But in the end, it’s not about how many words I manufacture, or if I write at the level of Hemingway or Stephen King; for me, it’s all about showing up every day and fighting the battle. A writer is nothing short of a warrior. It’s words against the blank space, resistance against creativity, discipline against passivity. As Steven Pressfield writes in his book The War of Art, “The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”
It’s important to couple action with discipline, and we need to act every day even when the inspiration is not there. In fact, our action may actually help us churn the engines of inspiration starting a positive feedback loop again. But the worst that we can do, whether we’re a creative professional or a coder, an artist or a scientist, an entrepreneur or an employee, is to keep waiting for inspiration to strike without taking any action. Action is supreme, because that is what defines our journey. As the popular quote by W. Somerset Maugham goes, “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
We need to show up every day, sit on the chair and be there staring at the blank space and let it stare at us. Even if we get a few meaningful words on the space that resonate with us, we’ve won. This is professionalism. This is what distinguishes us from someone who is an amateur. This is the difference between a passion and a hobby.
Don’t put yourself in a box and/or get stuck in any block — whether it be writer’s, entrepreneur’s, painter’s or any other creative block. Just go to your Menlo Park whether it be a spare room, a basement, a studio or simply your desk and chair at the corner of your bedroom, and cultivate the courage to show up every day and let the blank space stare at you.
Always remember these words by Steven Pressfield:
“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”
Participate in the war and fight your inner demons — your fear, anxiety, self-doubt, and lack of confidence. And as soon as the white space starts to get filled, you know you’re a victor, because you’ve done your bit for the day. You have taken a step further in your success journey. You’ve lived as a professional, you’ve made something new, and you’ve contributed to the progress of yourself, of humanity and this world in your own unique and distinct way.