The Fear of the Blank Page

Even before I began to compose this, I didn’t know where to begin. At the beginning of nearly every illustration, I have a fear of the blank page.

And isn’t that the point?  For all the planning, outlining, themes, topics, and elements of a composition — whether it be for writing or art or whatever — the first word has to be written, the first line drawn, the first step taken into that massive white abyss.

What exactly is the fear of it? What arouses the dread associated with it? I would venture that, for myself as an illustrator, the fear is the infinite number of possibilities associated with the blank page.  Sure, you know what you need to create, you know what the final product needs to be, but the how-to-get-there is for me the most daunting part.  I can envision any number of ways to create, to build, to tell a story, to create a character.  It’s a choose-your-own-adventure type of scenario.  You just hope that when you get a quarter of the way into it that you don’t fall into swamp just out of reach of the vine only to be told to go back to the beginning and start again.  You want the end of your adventure to have productive, beautiful fruit.

How do I overcome this fear?  Type a word.  Draw a line.  Engage the white space.  Make it know that you are entering the bold frontier and that you intend to voyage in with all flags flying.  Tell it from the beginning that you know that the whole process is a creative one and that it won’t bother you to experiment, to find different inroads to your creation.  Reassure yourself that simply starting is the best way to overcome the fear.

Before you know it, you’ll be at the middle of the piece, and then at the end.  You might look back and wonder how you arrived at the end.  I do that sometimes with an illustration or a design.  The quest was fraught with thought and challenge and acumen and sometime perilous risk-taking.  But it was worth it.  Because you didn’t let fear bind you.  Because you ended up creating.

So perhaps next time, try to see past the blank page to what it will become, and then begin.

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