The Promise of Blank Pages

To some, staring at a bright white blank sheet of paper, or more accurately, a bright white blank computer screen with its pulsating cursor can be one of the most intimidating experiences for any one. What shall I write? How shall I write it? Will it be good? Will it be bad? Will it be boring? Will my audience accept it; that is, once I figure out who my audience actually is? These questions can lead to a crippling numbness of mind and fingers. It can lead to heartache and depression, to drink and drugs, to suicide or fame. For some it’s all too much and they tend to pack it in after they realize that the emptiness is too vast and the miles too far to cross from the realm of the imagination to the page.

But for some others, the lure of the blank page is as beguiling as a woman’s long fingers finely holding the stem of her glass of wine. The promise of blank pages is the promise of infinite stories. As intimidating as the blank page can be, we should concentrate more on the promise of that story that is waiting to be told. The imagination is a fickle thing. Sometimes it flows with all the force of a broken dam, and at others it can be as slow as mud.

Nothing invigorates me more than the promise of a blank page in front of me. What wonders can be told, what adventures can be had, what characters can be encountered? The endlessness of the possible is also the promise of the possible. Where else except in narrative can one take such control over events? The writer can invent or rework whatever it is he or she wants. Yes, the desire must be there, but the lure of the page can work like a hypnotic spell cast in the direction of the writer.

But I’ve been skirting around the issue, really. Can we think about the promise of blank pages as something erotic? Can we think of blank pages as territories to be claimed in a sexual way? Can we think of writing as something equivalent to the sexual act? Perhaps when a writer writes something down on a blank page it becomes a case of insemination through the imagination, or textual insemination if you will. Certainly we can speak of the writer after finishing a work, or even a long day in front of the page as having the feeling of being spent? Exhausted and euphoric at the same time? The scattering of words would work much the same way as the scattering of semen, impregnating the blank page and giving it life. Likewise, it is not uncommon to hear writers speak about their books as if they (the books) were their children.

And what of women writers? Can we think of them in the same way as male writers inseminating the page? Perhaps we can, but in a slightly different way. Woman writers, despite what V. S. Naipaul claims, have offered us some of the most fantastic literary stories ever. I am convinced that Isak Dinesen is the great writer of the 20th Century on par with Joyce, Faulkner, Hemingway, and all of those other men. And what about Gertrude Stein? Without her imagination would there have been a Hemingway? Could Sartre have written Being and Nothingness without Simone de Beauvoir? How much of Alberto Moravia’s writing has been influenced by Elsa Morante? But these women were not there just to make their “men” look good; these women are powerful writers and thinkers in their own right. Their own imaginations have proven to be fertile ground from which worlds have sprung.

I’m not sure how much validity this particular thinking has, but I do know that there is something to the notion of an insemination of the texts with ideas and imagination. That insemination of the text can in turn inseminate the mind of the reader. The promise of blank pages can lead the writer anywhere. In any case the fecundity of the imagination is cultivated through writers and reading in strange and wonderful ways.


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