Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 30, 2009

Whoa! The Paper is Blank

Somewhere I’ve written about my anxiety around blank paper, and how I like to leave at least some scribbles at the end of the day suggesting where my work might start the next morning. Yes, true, but was it Walt Whitman or Ralph Waldo Emerson who said something about consistency being the hobgoblin of little minds? Sorry to mixing my poets and philosophers.

Anyway, after putting aside my novel for the most part, I started with a blank page and began, miracle of miracles to fill it. I can see something stretching ahead to a hundred pages, maybe two, more likely somewhere in the middle. And at the moment I don’t feel afraid. Because hey it’s just a beginning. I’ve got all the time and room in the world to make a million mistakes.

My mind has been focused on correcting for a while as I straightened up a few years of research and imagination. It is great to give the fussy editor a break, the part of me who practices pretending she never saw this material before, and does it make sense, and can it touch a heart? Right now my job is just to fill pages and never mind about those readers, not yet.

I’ll be back to wrangling and fuss, but it’s good to remember the thrill of an empty page. A beginning is filled with so much hope.



  1. Wow! What a great start and great attitude.

  2. I don’t think I’ve congratulated you yet on finishing your novel. Great way to start the holidays :). A new project — how exciting. Enjoy embracing all the possibilities of a blank page!

  3. I feel the same way about the hope and potential attached to new projects.
    Fill those pages!

  4. Oh, yes, send that fussy editor on a vacation! She’s earned it.
    And I second Emerson — no need for consistency. I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blank page and the beginning of something new.

  5. Thank you!

  6. Oh, Jama, thank you so much. There aren’t that many days or minutes when something feels finished: quibbles bubble up. But I am enjoying an even fictional sense of being finished. And the blank page!

  7. Thanks, Tracy!

  8. Fussy editor: yes, no where to be found. I know you love revision, and some of it I love, too; just not the nervous part. It’s fun to plow ahead for now knowing everything can be fixed later.
    And of course that was an Emerson quote. Whitman would probably sneer before he even used a word like consistency. I kind of love both those guys.

  9. Hoping with and for you!

  10. The Thrill of an empty page
    . . . the freedom of it too =)
    That’s a great attitude — thanks for sharing!

  11. Oh, I’m excited to hear that you’re dreaming up a new project!
    “I’ve got all the time and room in the world to make a million mistakes.”
    That’s a good reminder for me, Jeannine. It really frees up the whole notion of putting down the right word and even the right direction in the first draft.
    Here’s to lots of mistakes and enchanting discoveries in our wide open pages.

  12. There IS a thrill in beginning over . . .
    Good luck to you!!

  13. Re: The Thrill of an empty page
    Thank you!

  14. I will lift my tea mug to that! Meeting wide open pages and muddling through the bog of the late middle chapters.

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