The Blank Page
As I flip trough my pile of old sketchbooks and notebooks from over the years, I see a pattern. In almost all of them, I have used only the first page or the first few pages. The rest of the book looks as good as new. My father did the same with diaries. Some old ones contained just his name, written neatly on the top right hand corner of the first page. We called these our one page books and laughed about it , but I kept wondering why I did this. In retrospect, I realize that it an underlying fear of making a mistake and ‘spoiling my new book’ and at times I think it was just not knowing what to do or where to begin on that nice clean page that caused a mental block for me. Some call it the fear of the blank page.
Last year, for the first time ever, I filled a whole sketchbook and it gave me a tremendous feeling of achievement. I’m sharing here what seemed to have worked for me as a form of reflection for myself and in the hope that it can help others who might be facing a similar difficulty, be it in sketch booking or writing.
Tip 1. Prepare a dedicated space of your own to work in and make it inviting .I have an assortment of mugs that I have made or collected for my pens and brushes.
Tip 2. Keep the books and assortment of art material at an easy reach, ready to use location .
Tip 3. If the book is new, don’t start on the first page. Choose a random page in the middle of the book. (I think that this was perhaps the most helpful practice ) For subsequent entries work on pages away from the first one or other completed pages to avoid the feeling that it has to be ‘something connected to’ or ‘as good as’. Note: If stuck for ideas, a previous page can serve as inspiration, a colour or mark for example.
Tip 4. Keep the dustbin close by . It boosted my confidence to know that if the work I did on one page was not to my liking I could ripping it out.
Note: I have not ripped out a page yet, but just knowing I have that option helped to shift my fear.
Tip 5. Don’t over think, just do it. Make one confident and bold mark across the page to begin with.
Tip 6. Choose to use art material your way instead of the ‘right way’. I have had no formal training in art, so not knowing how - or the fear of not knowing how - to manipulate art material has e limited or restricted the natural flow of creativity in the past.
Tip 7. The family may disagree, but get comfortable with making a mess. You can tidy up at the end .At my creative best, I’ve found pencil shavings, bits of torn paper and other materials on the floor and in the folds of my clothes, or had bits of oil pastel under my nails and paint smudges on my face and shirt or other pages. These are just visual reminders of having been successful in overcoming the fear of the blank page that day.