These late winter mornings, I hear birdsong. I hear birdsong even though the temperatures have been in the single digits or below zero, even though a new snow storm sweeps through every few days. The birds don’t know how to doubt. The turning of the earth tells them that spring is closer each day.
It takes a similar faith to be a writer. We come to the page with an idea of what we’ll put there. We hold faith that something of value will emerge. We’re believers. Every one of us who works with words believes in the value of that work. We come back to the blank page time and time again because we’re convinced that this time we’ll get it right. This time we’ll succeed. This time the words on the page will do what we intend them to do.
Here are a few thoughts about how to keep facing that blank page:
1. Accept the fact that you will fail. Rarely will the thing you write measure up to the ideal that you first conceive.
2. Never let ego get in your way, neither excess nor lack thereof.
3. Humble yourself to the process. Somewhere there’s a writer more talented who is also failing every day.
4. Celebrate your talent. Out of all the people in the world, you’ve been given this gift. Don’t waste it.
5. Assert your right to do what you do best. Believe in yourself.
6. Be patient. Writing is your craft and it takes practice. It requires a lifelong apprenticeship.
7. Be protective of your time. In large, the world won’t understand when you retreat to your writing room. Trust that there are those of us who do. Trust that you belong to this community of writers.
8. Be willing to work. Former U.S. Senator and professional basketball player, Bill Bradley, said this: “When you are not practicing, remember, someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him he will win.”
9. If you’re going to whine or wallow in self-pity, make short work of it because it’s all wasted energy. It’s energy that could be better directed to your craft.
10. Remember what Samuel Beckett said: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
What else are we to do, my friends, but the work that sustains us? So we push on with hope, with faith, with the appreciation of what we love and how blessed we are to be able to face that blank page again and again, each day, even this one, so close to spring.