Faith seeking understanding #033: On approaching the blank page with fear and trembling

Faith seeking understanding, my personal journey towards a deeper knowledge of and intimacy with God, the cosmos, humanity and myself through thoughts, words and (occasionally) images, is a series of [hopefully] daily reflections I’m writing with the purpose of publishing something on a regular basis for others to read, either here, at joncarllewis.com or among my writings at Medium.com.

Photo by Alice Hampson on Unsplash.

Now comes the scary part: facing the blank page. I wonder to myself why it should be so, that after over a month of showing up, being true, cranking out the words… that approaching the blank page fills me with so much fear and not a little dread. Is it true what Steven Pressfield asserts in The War of Art? That resistance never gives up? Given my experience of the past few weeks, I can safely say that—at least for me—the fear of the blank page doesn’t go away.

So how have I made it to reflection #033 (#34 if you count the introductory reflection) if I have started out each session, quaking in fear? The answer, for me, is quite simple. I’ve simply begun.

That’s so simple as to sound simplistic so let me flesh that out a little bit.

I have found it useful, sometimes, to get myself moving by putting on the page exactly what I’m feeling. If I’m scared, I write a sentence that says something like: “I’m scared.” If I’m angry, I try to be honest with myself and write, “I’m angry.” If I feel like I’m in a fog, I will write, “I’m in a fog.”

The point is not to come up with some perfect, winning opening; the point is to begin. And I wish I could say that sentence #2 always magically appears—though it does sometime—but sometimes I have to ask myself a question: “Why am I afraid? Why am I scared? What does it feel like to be in a fog?” The idea is to get curious. Curious enough to start an exploration into what I’m feeling, why I might be feeling it, and what I intend to do about it.

I write what comes to my heart. I try not to censor it. If it’s really bad, I’ll just call it a journal entry and hide it from view. I don’t have to hit “publish” on everything that spills out of my mind and onto the page. But—more often than not—what I have written may be of interest to someone, and so I send it out into the world.

But the first steps are to check in with what I’m feeling, write that down, ask myself a question about what I’m feeling, write that down, and by that point I am launched.

It helps that I’ve done this thirty-four days in a row. It helps that I made a commitment to publish something every day. It helps that I found the right time of day to do this: right before sleep, lying down, in bed. And it helps that I have a couple of years of journaling under my belt (which has given me lots of practice staring at the blank page and wondering where to begin).

But staring at that blank page isn’t easy most of the time. I haven’t found myself sitting bolt-upright, surprised from sleep by some brilliant idea or some thread I absolutely have to follow right then and there.

No. I have to coax myself into writing—especially my most powerful and honest thoughts. The better the writing, it seems, the harder it is to get there. But I don’t have to think about that before I begin. In fact, it’s best for me not to think about how hard it might be, or how good an idea it is, or anything other than this: just begin.

And trust your heart to lead you to your logical end.

Thank you for your time and attention.
I’d love to know your thoughts on what you’ve read.
Please comment, below, or email me at joncarllewis@gmail.com.
May God richly bless you on your journey.

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Faith seeking understanding #033: On approaching the blank page with fear and trembling

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