The Vast Beauty of The Blank Page

Yes, there are many terrifying things about the blank page that faces writers every day. It’s humbling to think that it’s your responsibility – to readers, clients and others, even yourself – to fill that void.

I’m occasionally reminded of Donald Sutherland’s line in Backdraft. While needling William Baldwin’s character, who’s looking for answers as to who’s been setting a string of fires, Sutherland’s imprisoned arsonist says “It looked at you, didn’t it?” Fire is a living thing he refers to as “the animal” repeatedly. It’s something to be let loose, a beautiful beast that destroys everything.

The blank page is sometimes that kind of terrible creature, threatening to engulf me.

Other times the stark whiteness of a blank page, either digital or physical, is beautiful. It’s a flat, endless sea of snow and ice, nothing there except for the potential for more. It’s calming and soothing, inviting exploration and adventure that defies description. You can walk for miles and never find the end.

Even in that apparent vacuum, there’s life. If you’re not driven insane by the intimidating emptiness devoid of oases, you step out and are rewarded by encountering the animals who have adapted to life there and delighted by the fauna uniquely suited to survive such harsh conditions.

Those are the days when it all works. When the words come easily and when, given the option, I could write for hours unending and be not only happy but proud of the results. I’m pushed on by the promise of finding more of those hidden treasures.

There’s beauty in unbroken blankness. It’s the writer’s job to discover it and share it with others.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

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