17 October 2010

Filling The Empty Page

"You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study.  He applied to the academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings?  Neither have I.  Resistance beat him.  Call it an overstatement but I’ll say it anyway:  It was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square canvas.”                                                                                         -Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
I find writing to be daunting.  Well, not writing itself as much as starting to write.  As an undergrad, whenever I had to begin a new essay, I couldn’t face the white emptiness of a blank computer screen.  I would begin to write on an unlined piece of paper, folded in half portrait-style (that’s “hot dog” for those of you counting at home) because it cut down on the empty space.  I would write in pencil, rather than pen, because it made the initial free-flow of ideas seem less permanent, more open to change.  And I would write outside—at the park or on the balcony—because it just seemed to work better that way.

In her book The Habit of Creativity legendary choreographer Twyla Tharp spoke of this process of beginning something new:

To some people, this empty room symbolizes something profound, mysterious, and terrifying; the task of starting with nothing and working your way toward creating something whole and beautiful and satisfying. It's no different for a writer rolling a fresh sheet of paper into his typewriter (or more likely firing up the blank screen on his computer), or a painter confronting a virginal canvas, a sculptor staring at a raw chunk of stone, a composer at the piano with his fingers hovering just above the keys. Some people find this moment-the moment before creativity begins-so painful that they simply cannot deal with it. They get up and walk away from the computer, the canvas, the keyboard; they take a nap or go shopping or fix lunch or do chores around the house. They procrastinate. In its most extreme form, this terror totally paralyzes people.

She goes on to say that the best way to counteract the paralysis inherent in new ventures is to form a routine or habit (hence the title) around the activity.  

And so... I’ve decided to take this writing thing seriously.   I am committing to writing something every day, be it prose or verse, inane or serious, proprietary or from something that has influenced me.  When I’m at my computer, I’ll post it here.  While not everything will be worth your time, it is worth mine, and I hope you occasionally find things to enjoy. 

1 comment:

*star said...

That's why Bob Ross is such a gentle soul. He only has a blank canvas for 0.337 seconds, and he has a completed moutains-in-the-fall-at-sunset-by-the-lake scene completed in 30 minutes.

He doesn't have to hate the "virgin canvas."

He has better things to do. Like raise an army of squirrels.