Many years ago, armed with a toddler and newborn, I stepped through the doorway of my mother’s new post-divorce home. Coated with drool, Cheerios® falling from my shirt; I was paralyzed. EVERTHING was white. White walls, countertops, chairs, cabinets, bedspreads. For my mother, this was a fresh, clean start; for a new mother, who longed to hide stains and crumbs among patterns and dark colors, a nightmare. The house mocked me – “Go ahead, try and live here. You can’t hide the real you here.” The inability to contain my messy life, to defend it, and control it would be exposed.
White is intimidating. White overpowers the desire to create; challenges the logic and emotions that compel us to communicate. It is a creative stop sign. Conversely, who doesn’t enjoy the freshness of a new notebook, sketchbook, or white walls? There’s excitement in white; but also danger.
At the mercy of white, I am vulnerable. The blank page stares me down each time I start a new project and figuratively during a project. Every new day feels like a blank page taunting me to ‘try’ and be a writer. Fill that page with something of value. My brain processes the experience as necessary risk; my emotions dread the scariness of the unknown.
How to work with this dissonance daily and actually create?
1) Affirm daily that your work has worth. I’m a firm believer in ‘created in His image,’ meaning that we have an innate desire to create. Our stories through writing, painting, architecture, healing arts – whatever media we choose – have eternal value in ministering the world and one’s own soul. Creation unshared is meaningless – God could have kept all the beauty of His creation to Himself, but the world is an entirely different experience because we are here to share in it.
2) Just do it. I say it constantly. You’re not a writer unless you write or painter or musician, etc… So BE a writer, a painter, or whatever your pursuit is! Consider this: a half day’s worth of mediocre is worth more than a blank page. The crappy prose (or sketches or practices) will lead to success eventually. Not creating leads to nothing, but dead dreams, low self-esteem, and lack of confidence.
3) Turn off the distractions. As a former Queen of Procrastination (closely related to her Royal Majesty Denial,) I can put off writing (or anything I fear success at) better than anyone. Social media and phones are the obvious attention thieves. The not-so-obvious is your inner editor. She’s a bitch. Disinvite her to the party! Pacify her by acknowledging that she’ll get her chance to reign in the future but her know-it-all perfectionism is not welcome during your creative flow.
4) Be aware of your emotional climate. As a woman in recovery, not knowing where I am emotionally is a road map to relapse and quite frankly, though my experiences do fuel my creativity, I don’t want to spend creative time with my stories being distracted by an underlying issue. I frequently journal prior to tackling a story or subject for the blog. I find working through the HALT steps a quick way to get an accurate emotional barometer. Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? Yes or no answers do not work here. Honesty and vulnerability does. (Please feel free to refer to Living Gracefully post for some program suggestions if you’d like to do some inner growth work.)
5) Do the next right thing. Pen to paper, brush to canvas – is the fear gone? Absolutely not, but I have prepared myself to work despite the emotions (anxiety, fear, etc.) – to produce growth. I will spare myself the torment of wasted time, regrets, dreams postponed – which will only produce negativity, complacency, apathy, and feelings of worthlessness.
The white page signifies different things for everyone. It could be a challenge, a threat, or both. It encompasses our ideas of success and failure, proves our worth, displays our expertise or incompetence, exposures our vulnerabilities. These are powerful ideas in our culture. Challenge that white page right back because the work that we produce affirms that we exist and that our stories have value and validity through common experiences and emotions. Our creative expressions matter.
Create joyfully today!
Does a white page or blank canvas stop you from creating? How do you deal with it?
© 2013 Carolyn Moore