August 12, 2015
The blank page. A field of white, unsullied and wholesome, unexplored and terrifying. There’s a reason you don’t see a blog from me every week here on OYOL. When Colleen and Elaina asked me recently if I could step up my frequency and submit every week, I cringed and begged off. Oh, no, I’m far too busy to commit. I have the family and the day job, not to mention two works in progress that need to be finished. One is a heavy rewrite of the third book in my fantasy/scifi series, the other my foray into literary fiction. Progress on the one is slow, while I haven’t worked on the other in years. Years.
If I applied myself, I could finish the one and get the other back on track. But the blank page stands in the way. To some writers, the hair-thin cursor, with its vertical wink, offers an invitation to explore new vistas: Let us begin and see where this journey takes us. I only feel the pull to forge ahead when the trail of words stretches a good long way behind me. That first step is hard. Below the rim of the screen, the white stretches endlessly, a vast, empty land haunted by the specters of failure. Faced with that, I turn away and procrastinate. Before beginning this post, I played a game on my phone for an hour. An hour. Since starting it, I’ve browsed the Internet four times and played more games on my phone.
I procrastinate not just with blogging and fiction but also with the medical writing I do for my living, much to the surprise of friends, who believe me to be a diligent worker. I’m not. I need to feel the whip-cracking pressure of a looming deadline before I will strike out across that vast unknown of the blank page, no matter whether it’s a study report for a new medication, a chapter of the WIP, or a post like this.
About six months ago, I wrote about my inability to fix my running toilet, a task I believed I should be able to do myself but hadn’t yet begun. We finally had a handyman fix it a few weeks ago, although not to my satisfaction. The new stopper malfunctions about every third or fourth flush—an improvement, but not the perfect “I never need think about this again” operation I’d desired. Fear of a subpar repair job is one reason I grumbled rather than address the problem—for six months. You know what I was doing, when I could have been visiting the hardware store or booking a handyman? Playing games on my phone.
A favorite mobile phone game features the emotion characters from the movie Inside Out. When you choose Sadness as your avatar, she says, “Ambition makes me tired.” This statement resonates and hints at why I’ve escaped into mindless games rather than trek out onto the blank page or wade into daunting household chores. I’ve always been a procrastinator, but the past six months have seen more of it than usual. Some losses in my life partly account for it, as well as the impotence of waiting for someone else to decide my next move. But I need to fix my head, and do a better job than we did with the toilet. I have too much to do to let the water run while I stare at the blank vista of the untrammeled page.
Hmmm, before I start, let me check if my avatar’s lives have recharged.