To create, You Have to Face the Blank Page.

Blank Page
Blank Page

I have been staring at the blank page for at least 10 minutes. I do not know what to write. My mind is blank. I procrastinate by reading more. I do not dare to face the blank page. A blank page is a perfection. There is nothing to edit.  

Before you can create, you have to face the blank page. The is a page that challenges us to dig deep. It urges us to create. To put out our work and show to the world. 

We all now living in the age of information abundance. We have no more excuse for the need to know more before we start working on a project. 

“The wonderful thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting.

The terrifying thing about writing is that there is always a blank page waiting.” ― J.K. Rowling

We cannot wait for inspiration to come. Every day, we have to show up to create. It does not matter how you feel, you have to show up. The process of creation is scary. You go from nothing to something. You are the creator of your world.

To face down the blank page, you have to sit down and do the work. What happens if you are not inspired or do not feel like doing the work? You still sit down and face that page. You are allowed not to do any work but you are not allowed to do other things. It is boredom or creation. The choice is yours. 

“…she (the artist, the writer) doesn’t wait for inspiration, she acts in the anticipation of its apparition.”

― Steven Pressfield

Start small. We dream of big dreams. Each journey starts with a small first step. Start putting one word on the page. Repeat the process until the page is filled with your words. 

Know your energy. When do you feel best and most creative? The hour belongs to you. It the hour is in the morning. You have to protect it with your life. The world can have the rest of the 23 hours but the hour of creativity is yours. 

It is not the tool it is you. My dream pen is the Pilot 823. I have never tried that pen but I want to own it. It is recommended by Neil Gaiman as his workhorse pen. I know I will not buy it. Having that pen does not make me a better writer. That pen will not give me the courage to face the blank page. I have to face the empty page. Do not blame the tools. It is never the tools. It is us who has to find the courage to start writing down the words. 

The journey is lonely. You can sign up for the mastermind group. A group of people who will encourage you to start work and keep going until you are done. They can lead you to the blank page but they cannot write it for you. You have to pick up the pen and start writing on the blank page. The journey of creativity can be lonely. The people around you can only be your cheerleader. Let the solitude help you to know yourself better. 

“I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.” ― Audrey Hepburn

It is all on you. The blank page, the work and the results, it is all on you. You have to be responsible for your work. It is scary. There is no one to blame but yourself. Take ownership of your work. Give your best effort. Most importantly, sign off with your name. 

Everything starts with facing the blank page. 

No Zero Days

Whether it is studying, working on your side hustle or writing. There should be no zero days. Zero days means you did not do anything. Regardless of whether you are busy or caught up by life’s commitment. Do at least one activity before going to bed.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you achieve your dreams? One step at a time. By having the discipline of no zero days, you have made sure you work on your side project on a daily basis. Through this discipline, you are able to achieve far more than someone who waits for inspiration.

I read and write every day. If I know I have a full day ahead. I would read and write in the morning. Doing it all just before going to bed is probably the least effective to improve. I find myself feeling tired and difficult to get into the flow. As such, try not to leave creative work to the end of the day. And I am guilty of this most of the time.

Nevertheless, there is no excuse for not doing. Saying “I do not have time to do it”, is equivalent to “my dog eat my homework”. Most of my writings are no good. It is only through bad writing, I can find my good writing.

No one is pushing you. No one is holding you accountable except yourself. You just have to do it. Do it every day, there are no zero days.

Writing Skills That I Learned From Mom’s Cooking

I am the luckiest person on earth. Everyday I get to have dinner with my parents. I watch them from having a full head of black hair to a full head of white hair. My parents do not like to eat out, so we eat at home all the time.

I tried to learn cooking from my mom and I am a lousy student. Until today, I cannot cook any of her signature dishes. Yet by observing how mom cooks have made me a better writer.

Be Prepared. Mom prepares for dinner as early as the night before. She sometimes would marinate the ingredient overnight. The ingredients are all laid out in proper order by late afternoon.

Same as writing, I have to prepare my ideas way ahead before I start my first draft. In fact, I would have drafted my writing many times before I write a single word. To have a good start, always be prepared regardless in writing or cooking.

Master the Basics. Mom always keeps certain ingredients in the pantry at all times. That’s her go-to basic ingredients for many of her dish. She told me to forget about the cooking shows on TV. If I can master basic knife skills, cooking methods and ingredients combination, I would be a good enough cook.

According to this link, there is a total of 171,476 words but only 3000 words cover 95% of our daily usage. We do need that many fancy words in our writing.

Keep It Simple. Mom’s cooking are never sophisticated. There is no fancy plating or sophisticated cooking technique. Her foods are always good. By keeping it simple, there is less chance of making a mistake.

I am a fan of the Hemingway App. This app helps me to keep my writing simple and readable. It is like having my own personal editor. I cannot recommend it enough.

Too Much of a Good Thing is Bad. Mom insists on buying expensive food to a minimal. The same applies to festive seasons as well. When there are too much of good food on the table, we do not cherish what we have. Even if we can afford it, we still need to practice constraint. I still remember eating steam chicken from my childhood days. It was such a rare occasion that I eat cherish every single bite.

In writing, you may have a lot of ideas and arguments to put forward. Is it necessary to put down everything? Maybe not. Explore and go deep with a few good ideas. This helps the reader to stay engage with writing.

Be Spontaneous. Sometimes mom let the fridge and pantry tell her what to cook. There is no planning involved. Let each ingredient speak to her and she will prepare the meal. The only time that the ingredient speaks to mom is when the ingredient is about to expire.

Take a piece of paper and write freely. No structure. No ideas. Let your fingers do the writing. You will be surprised what comes out from the exercise.

Know Your Audience. Mom knows every family member’s favorite food. Everyday, she rotates each family member’s diet preference. Everyone looks forward to the meal and everyone gets to enjoy his or her favorite mom’s cook food.

As a writer, do you know whom you are writing to? Make sure your writing is relevant to your audience. Limit your audience. If you do not know who are your audience. Write something that you yourself want to read.

Look Out for Ideas. Mom watches TV cooking show and cut out recipes from the newspapers. She gets her ideas from a variety of sources. Her ideas evolve from what she saw. This keeps her passion in the kitchen burning.

Writing ideas can come from many sources. I get my sources from my personal diary, readings and observation. My mentor suggests that I should write about things that I do not know. This is how I can learn and improve.

Put Your Heart Into It. The family runs a tight ship and we have limited food budget. I still remember the times where my parents were struggling with money. Yet, I never remember we had a bad meal. No doubt, we cannot afford the freshest or the best ingredients. Mom has put in her best effort into her cooking. Her food came out great. To have great cooking, it all comes down to effort and passion, not ingredients.

To product quality writing, all we need is time and dedication. Not the latest gadgets or expensive pens. No doubt, it may help. At the end, it is how we can maximize the resources that we have and produce the best work.

Cooking and writing may need different tools and skillsets. The fundamental of these two activities are the same. At the end, it is about self-exploration and discovery.

Write Something That You Don’t Know

“I don’t think your writing is getting anywhere. Try spicing up your topics by writing about things that you do not know.”

What? My teacher always encourage me to write about something that I know. My mentor is asking me to write something that I do not know?

To write something that I do not know, I have to spent time studying the topic. It is the only way to learn.

To learn is not enough, I have to share. Before I can share, I have to use what I learned. Only then the knowledge stays with me.

“If information were the answer, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs”

~Derek Sivers~

To use and apply what I learned also means to stumble and fall. There is no failing but a lesson learned.

Do something today. Do something that you do not know. Make it into a lesson.