The tyranny of the blank page

Last month, during November, I indulged in the exercise of writing something every single day. Not because I actually had something to say, but because I was trying to indulge various guides, from Julia Cameron to Anne Lamott, saying that it was important – as a writer – to just write. Whether or not you had anything to say. Just start writing, and something will come of it.

It was a remarkable experience, and I found that – even on days when I really didn’t have anything to say – after a paragraph or two of stumbling, I usually found myself treading a path that held some narrative I wanted tell. That “life list” I’d never gotten around to writing down. The dusty pine smell of summer camp that takes me back, a world away, into what seems like someone else’s life of small towns, and horses, and that romance that, well, neither of us were really sure was happening. And toenails. Looking through my notes, I apparently spent a page or two writing about toenails? What? I don’t know, at the moment, I don’t have the nerve to go back and read it.

Which, oddly enough, is one of the rules Natalie Goldberg sets out in Writing Down the Bones:  after you’ve finished a piece of work, it’s none of your business – move on to something else. At least for a while, otherwise you freeze with your work and censor yourself.


So, the point here is that you may start seeing more posts that aren’t exactly about “roadtrips”, as the blog title would imply. They may in fact not be about anything at all. They may just be me waking up and fighting the tyranny of the blank page to get words down on a page, hoping that some forgotten story from my past will emerge. Sorry. I do apologize for the added cruft, but think of it as a convenient excuse to spend a little more time in your browser away from that code review you’ve promised to finish. Besides, as I was fond of reminding audiences at the open mics I used to play “For years I’ve suffered for my art. Now it’s your turn.”

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