Shocked by a White Sheet of Paper


 

The most difficult stage in writing, according to experienced writers (one of them the author of the book “Trip to Quiapo”, one of the most respected screen writers and teachers, Ricky Lee) is facing a blank sheet of paper.

 

A blank sheet of paper means nothing because it has nothing. Unlike people, a blank sheet of paper does not have anything yet for a face. Nothing that says it wants to tell you something but could not either because it is intimidated, or scared.

 

It is a black hole.

 

So powerful is a black hole that it will even suck our sun like a child sucking a string of spaghetti from a roll (sun) in the plate (universe).

 

The white sheet sucks every idea in the mind.

 

If you try to think about it however, it is not really the blank sheet of paper that is sucking ideas out of our mind. From the time we learned to read to the time we learned to write, we have never held a blank sheet of paper to fill it with ideas ourselves, until we decide to write. We held a piece of paper because there is something written on it we want to read. For years, this has been our habit. For years, our mind has been programmed this way and the program is affirmed time and time again that every time we pick a piece of paper, it is for the purpose of reading what is written on it. Pick, read. Pick, read. Pick, read. Pick read. Pick, read.

 

Remember a pioneering study involving a dog? Every time he feeds the dog, the scientist rings the bell first, then feeds the food to the dog. Soon, the dog learns that when the bell rings there is food, so that even if there is no food the dog salivates when he hears the bell ring.

 

We have long ago learned that in every piece of paper we pick up, there are written words on it we have to read. Otherwise, we would not have picked it up at all. When we decided to write, it was too late. Our ideas we formulate in our minds only for months or years. The pick-read, pick-read habit has been etched and re-etched time and time again from the time we learned to read.

 

What happens when we face a blank sheet of paper is that we are unconsciously shocked. Shocked because our mind, unknown to us, is looking for words written on the blank sheet.

 

It is like losing a thing or a person who was always with you. Subconsciously, you know there is the person or thing. Your know there are written words on the paper. But alas, there is none!

 

And what happens when we are shocked? No thoughts, no ideas come out.

 

No article written.

 

As a writer-wanna-be, I deal with this shock, like I deal with loss.

I can not avoid white-sheet shock, as even the most experienced writer can not. But I handle it. When I face the white sheet, I convince myself, there is really nothing there. The white empty clean sheet is in front of me so that I can fill with words for a face. So that, even if that face could not tell, it can show.

 

And great writers want a face that shows rather than a face that tells.

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