Blank paper anxiety

Here it goes, it’s like a slight pressure that builds up in my gut, then goes up towards my throat and even if it goes away shortly, kind of stays around me, most likely just sitting on my shoulders. I am describing a typical day when I decide to write something, it’s not always like this, but it happens a lot when I have too many ideas floating in my head. Too much of them, some of them are good but suddenly -BOOM! My head feels like it can’t process it all and the next thing I do is… I give up! Hands up, I surrender. Not this time because in the past couple of months I have realized writing definitely helps with dealing with anxiety, it’s simple: the unnecessary energy that builds up for whatever reason I can transform into words. The process can be more or less painful, but it works. The words are often meaningless, just bits and pieces of my thoughts, making the reader feel like he just got lost in a labyrinth and needs to find a way out as soon as possible. I hope your sense of orientation is better than mine. First simple conclusion: The faster I write and the less I think about it, the better.

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What I wanted to start with is not a general sense of anxiety, it is a specific form that everyone in the modern world experiences at some point – the emptiness of the first page. I remember the feeling since I was a kid and we had to write an essay on some mundane topic such as ‘why I love spring time’, ‘on my way to school’, ‘how I spent my holidays’ and so on and so on.

Growing up as shy and obedient child who didn’t want to get in trouble, I would follow the rules of writing that boring essay, making one sentence the centre of it all and then repeating it in numerous uncreative ways until I could count enough words to finally invent some kind of a conclusion, a finishing touch to an uninspiring story. And guess what? SInce my grammar was pretty much flawless (btw, English is not my native language), I would end up getting an A, or maybe a B on a bad day. That made me think I am a pretty good writer, which is hilarious, but not a big deal. What I find is a bigger deal is the fact that I thought the feeling I had while writing is what it must feel, there’s no other approach to writing your thoughts down. Those weren’t even real thoughts, those were the exact same thoughts of every kid my age who is trying to write something she’s sure her teacher would: a) understand, b) recognize as familiar and appropriate, c) reward with a high grade. That’s how the educational system works, everyone wants you to be creative, but don’t get too creative, it’s like there’s an invisible boarder. Too free and creative style probably means you’ll go crazy sometime in your life, you won’t get a good job, big family and turn out to be a complete and utter disappointment. All that because you didn’t take things seriously.

I’m much more relaxed about it these days, but that’s nowhere near complete sense of calmness and feeling of confidence and content. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be, I don’t know, but at least now I’m trying to figure it out by myself. The need to write is present, so I guess I just have to do it every once in while.

Having some experience in journalism, writing news and reports, I feel it’s way easier  in this field because here you have to follow the rules, certain clichés because the readers are used to them to a pont of no return. Also, the rules of newsroom are clear, if you write too much, the editor will cut your text down to a number of words he can fit into the paper or on the web. He doesn’t care about your witty finishing line, we don’t have time for that! There’s no much romance in it. But even in journalism, the first sentence problem and the fear of not knowing how to start your story is still present. Maybe there is a romance in that, after all, it’s just hidden under the rough surface of cold facts.

Writing college essays and seminars can be, you know, soul-crushing, and for me, the beginning is naturally the hardest part. After I’ve finally managed to write an awesome introduction, got started working on the main thesis, it all goes smoothly, with a help of the right sources and literature, the piece kind of writes itself. In the end I would pretty much be happy with the results, especially with those essays where I could choose my own topic. That just reminded me, if I find my favourite Tarantino essay that got me maximum points in one particular course, I will post it here.

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It’s all about leaving the romanticized feeling of what writing is and embracing it as a job with all of it’s pros and cons. What I’m finally trying to say is, I need to learn the mechanisms of how to push myself more, how to start and beat the hell out of that blank page. Meaning not just filling it up with random thoughts like I’m doing now (it also helps, though), but make my point and be able to defend every word I’ve written down on paper, I mean computer.

 

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2 comments

  1. Hi, femmemia. You are right. In the education system pupils are encouraged to ‘be creative ‘ yet end up writing what they know will afford them a high grade. It’s human nature. How can young writers be evaluated, anyway? Creative writing is such a subjective personal area. Interesting article . Thanks. Regards, Marie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! 🙂 Yes, I absolutely agree, we have the same ‘problem’ in all fields of art, it’s very subjective and I think children should be encouraged to express themselves in as many ways possible (if they want to, of course, most of them will because we are all born with a sense of creativity). Grades shouldn’t be so important and valued as they are today and then we would end up having more creative, free thinking adults in this world.

      Like

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