My Worst Fear Is Not The Blank Page

By Lewis King, Compere of WordSpace

I had an epiphany recently. That’s exciting. You should be excited for me because my only qualification as a philosopher is my well-kept beard.

The epiphany came from thinking about that old fear of the blank page. I don’t have it. Maybe you have that phobia but I think you should have a more sensible phobia like Equinophobia or Koumpounophobia (look them up).

What I realised is that I have a worse fear than of the blank page.

And I epiphanised* this on a Worktime Loo Break.

You may do Worktime Loo Breaks (WLB). They’re a part of my editing process. I have them to put distance between myself and the words. I do it to come back to the page clearer in body and spirit. I do it because I hate editing. It means I have to drag my eyes over what I’ve just pooped out. Which is why I often send stuff to people to comb through the infestation of typos and nonsense.

My editing ‘process’ involves dumping my ramblings down on a few pages and then writing, from scratch, the same thing, from memory. I’m supposed to use the dumpings as a reference point, but my hope is when I write it again, it will be better.  And I don’t have to see any of the shit below.

Before the WLB I had just read a blog post about editing reminding me that editing is more than wiping typos and fixing tenses. It’s also about flow, structure, and clarity.

I realised that to do it well you have to keep looking closely and from a distance. It means you have to keep reading, re-reading, tweaking, tuning, and concentrating and… well that sucks out the fun and spontaneity.

And then I had the epiphany.

I realised what I’m actually afraid of.

I have ‘The Fear of Getting Bored’. I’m scared of working on something for so long that I hate the project enough to give up.

I’ve been writing a particular short story for about 5 years now. I struggle with structuring it.

It’s about a guy in waiting room but it’s got a twist. (Oooo twist!) Proper M. Night Shyamalan stuff. But it’s lame, and I really wanted to write something that’s worth re-reading several times. So I re-wrote it maybe a few times. I’m still not happy with it, but also right now I don’t really want to work on it.

Problem is, I can’t let the story go, but I also don’t want to go back to it. Which is kind of ironic.

I’ve given up on it. I’ve become my own worst nightmare.

But that’s just a small thing. I’ve heard this happen to others. I once worked with someone who had stopped a PhD after completing 95% of it. My response was ‘But you could’ve just kept going.’ But she hated it so much she just couldn’t. No amount of inspirational quotes on backgrounds of bridges were going to help. She didn’t start the PhD believing she would hate it.

That scares the shit out of me. I don’t want that to happen.

Something has slightly reassured me though.

I’ve been binge listening to the back catalogue of Harmontown lately. It’s a live podcast with Dan Harmon, creator of Rick and Morty and Community. In Episode 17 (way back in 2012) he ranted about hating writing. I suggest just listening to it (about 20 minutes in) because it’s in a segment of ‘Things He’s Not Allowed To Complain About’, which is hilariously self-aware.

I really like his candidness about writing, creativity, and the TV industry: which is very interesting because he got fired from the show Community, a show HE created.

I don’t have a clear solution or motivation. But post-epiphany I am more aware of my own fears. And, currently, I’m content with the fact that sometimes I like writing and sometimes I don’t.

I’ve re-written this loads and loads and now I like writing again. Because it is done.

* This is not a word, but I’m trendsetter.


2 thoughts on “My Worst Fear Is Not The Blank Page

  1. My worst fear is the “what ifs”. Or possibly the exact opposite; not so much what might have been, but the possibility (probability?!) that it would have been better than this. When people ask if I could go back and do it all differently, would you? I have to say, “I would”; not because I don’t appreciate the experiences I’ve had or love the people in my life, but because I want… No, Need to know. How would it be different? Better? Worse? Would I have met you somewhere else in some other capacity? Would I even recognise that ‘me’? Would the nagging doubt shadow evey parallel life, as the multiverse spirals ever outwards in an unlimited number of alternative possibilities…?

    The key symptom of this fear? An almost pathological avoidance of decision-making. Because what if I make the wrong one? And by “wrong”, I secretly mean any that isn’t the (purely fictitious) perfectly optimal “right” answer. I procrastinate to the point that I am driven to make a decision and wildly go with what I can only hope is my gut.

    The Middle by Jimmy Eat World just came on the radio… Which is probably exactly what I needed to hear to keep those fears at bay.


  2. Does it really need more editing?
    Rewriting from memory sounds a good tactic.
    Did you hear Leone Ross talk about commitment yesterday at NSSF – does that help?
    Haven’t looked those words up yet!
    Moira x


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