It's every writer's nightmare, one that I have had repeatedly through my decades in advertising to my decade in ministry. Of all the things that could happen to me, or someone I love, it's the blank page that is the most terrifying.
What do I have to say? And who cares to read it? This has been the argument looping in my head these last few weeks. I could blame it on the global pandemic and the isolation I've been experiencing lately.
I am used to having conversations with strangers that often feed the blank page with words. Now, I only have myself to meet. I am the stranger - one of a different ilk.
And no matter how hard I try to resist it, the page will not starve itself to death. It waits patently for me to give it a noun, a verb, an adjective or somekind of pronoun, modifier, or puncuation mark.
This is as far as I have gotten.
I'm looking and searching for something, anything, to write about. All I have right now is the contents of my desk.
What was once a table in someone elses dining room is now my desk. Only there are no plates or dirty spoons or even a glass half filled with water. It is, however, cluttered. And the leftover contents consists of billions of words from other people who while sitting around some other table they spoke and listened to tales and fables and boring snipets of life. In each one of these books, there is something said, something to add to the conversation.
Nestled among the unused pens and pencils are books with titles like "God Knows" and "Man's Search for Meaning" and "The Art of Living." On the cover of a journal I abandoned at the begining of this pandemic it is written, "Okay fine, I'm grateful." There's so much to be said about that, not to mention all the content previously written inside it.
In front of me is a book called the "Gospel According to Peanuts" which is filled with words from one man and cartoons from another. It's a collaboration between someone people know very well and someone not many have ever heard from. Yet they both had something worth saying that it got written down and published. Next to this book is a book on the TV show Modern Family that captures all the "wit and wisdom from America's favorite family" as it was written by a group of other people who are not the people in the show.
The books that taunt me the most have titles like "The Message" which is one man's translations of many other's words that have passed down from eras and times long ago. And a more modern work entitled, "Yes, And..." which calls out to me to play along. Each written by two contemporaries who culled through the volumes of life to find just the right thing to put down to paper. The kind of immortality I only dream of.
The art work on the walls, the hand carved sculpture and stereo speakers all have something to say. A sheet of paper filled with banjo chords that speaks a different kind of language speaks to me. But I am mute.
If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s even a unopened box with an Amazon Echo Dot inside it. Ask it anything and it too will fill the blank space with an endless supply of inspiration.
As for me, inside my head space is silence. I feel boxed up, unopen, ignored as if someone has yet to take the time to set me up. I can't help but wonder if it's because my sheet of instructions is blank.
Buried among the clutter on my desk is an index card where I once wrote, "This is what I want you to do." It's in my hand writing but it's signed, "God." As I stare at this blank sheet of paper, in all its emptiness of white, my heart drops. Today, I don't know what the "what" is in what I am to do.
And so I sit and stare at the swirling pastel colored cover designed by the late, great Dr. Seuss who tells me "Oh, The Places You Will Go!" If only I had written down exactly where I needed to go I probably wouldn't be in this predicament.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”