The blank page.
Blank. Totally, unapologetically blank.
Fingers hovering above the keys, waiting — just waiting — for something brilliant to type. You’d like to type something brilliant. Something meaningful, that people will look at approvingly and think “Yes! This is me!” or frown at whilst internalising a shout of “I disagree!” — or they will be so incredibly moved by the profanity of what you’ve written that they will cry; heavy, choking, nasty tears. Or silent deadly ones that will slide down their face uncontrollably and they’ll hastily wipe away hoping nobody will notice.
The page is still blank.
You are hoping and willing for your brain to conjure up something so beautiful, something so brilliant.
Yet, inevitably, time goes on, and the page is still blank, still empty. You’ve got so much crammed in your head, but nothing wants to come out.
I remember a time when writing was a breeze. When I was seven, I fashioned a ‘night torch pen’, a tiny flashlight tied to a biro, which meant I could stay up until the small hours, scribbling away in one of the many notebooks I had to hand. All sorts of stories would pour out; tales of crazy Mayors, who only dressed in brown and held dinner parties for the local fishermen on a Tuesday, or stories of a cat that thought it was a fondant fancy. Half-written science-fiction novels that started with such vigour but ran out as soon as I realised I knew nothing about aeronautical engineering and that gravity was still a little bit of a puzzle to me. (I still to this day wonder how on earth the Millennium Falcon could come out of hyperspace into the area where Alderaan was supposed to be, and somehow it automatically adjusted for the change in gravity without leaving them splatted against the back of the cabin. I can explain that one to you over a glass of wine if you’d like to discuss further. I am truly a delight at dinner parties.)
I was told off at school frequently for not paying attention — because I was reading ahead, or because I was secretly writing away under the desk. I wrote a 6-part novel when I was 9 about a haunted house, which was based on a school trip we’d been on when I was 7, and I was sent to the headmaster’s office for not working. Instead, he read the entire thing over two hours (okay, 6-part novella, if you will) whilst I sat outside writing in yet another notebook, convinced I was in trouble. Eventually he called me in, told me quietly that I was very talented, and he was happy to read any other stories I’d written.
I started a fantasy thriller when I was 11. I submitted the first chapter — a graphic description of an elf being beheaded by a magician — into a competition for under-14s. It was, perhaps, a bit gory and in hindsight maybe a little more adult that the other entries might have been, but it was good enough to win. I got the impression that it blew most of the other entries completely out of the water. I had the story published, and was given an award, and I was incredibly proud of myself. I continued writing the fantasy thriller — in fact, I even rewrote and completely changed the first chapter. Award-winning or not, I had new ideas I wanted to inject into it. New characters, new approaches. I was buzzing with plotlines and imagined maps of this fantasy world I was creating.
If anyone was destined to spend the rest of their life writing, it was me. But did I? Absolutely not.
I can’t even begin to work out what happened. I was bursting with stories, and then I just seemed to run into some trouble. I wrote poetry and songs at university, and tinkered about with a story — which I wrote a good 75,000 words of. Then about five years ago — I just ran out. It’s like my brain just switched off. Am I an adult now? Was this inevitable? Or have I broken myself, somehow? And if I have, can I ever be repaired?
My fingers tentatively hover over the keys again. I have tried bringing it back, I have really, really tried. I’ve tried notebooks. I used to fill up hundreds of notebooks, with ideas or names or drawings of things that I liked. Now, I have hundreds of notebooks but they reflect what it feels like inside my head. They’re just empty, waiting to be filled, sadly knowing that they never will.
My heart aches slightly as I’m writing this, because I know it to be true. I know it to be the saddest secret I ever have. I still habitually buy notebooks because I know I have the want to fill them, but they just pile up and up and up, and I’m thinking about how much I want to write but how little I have left to say. They will never be filled, and I will never be fulfilled. And that is why I will always be thinking about the blank page. I will always allow my fingers to hover above the keys, as I think about how much I want to say and how I just can’t find the words to write.
This was originally published in February 2017 in’Tough and Tender: Volume One‘ by the Crybaby Collective (available to purchase via Lulu or Amazon.com).
All profits made from the anthology are going to Planned Parenthood.