Or a blank page. A blank page offers infinite possibilities!
I think that’s supposed to be exciting. But, for me, it’s paralyzing.
It’s a lot of pressure.
It’s the pressure to craft a killer opening line within an engaging first paragraph and to then write seamlessly to the story’s conclusion.
When I think like that, it’s over before it begins.
Because writing is messy. It’s spilled tea and split-open garbage bags and “What did I just step in?” and “Is that blood?”
Let me invite you into my anxiety-addled brain, which prevented me from filling a journal cover-to-cover until this past year, at age 23.
It wasn’t the first journal I ever owned—not by a long shot.
That isn’t to say the journal was my first.
I’ve had many journals over the years. We’re talking a dozen at the very least. Hardcover journals. Spiral-bound journals. Journals with unlined pages. Journals with recycled paper pages. Journals with inspirational quotations on each page. At one point I had a password-protected, voice-activated journal case, for a journal I wrote in exclusively in vibrantly colored gel pens before doing what I always did: tearing out each page I marred with my handwriting, crumpling it up, and throwing it in the trash where it belonged. (Not the recycling bin, but the trash. No second chances! Just be happy I didn’t burn the pages.)
I once read that handwriting is basically the tangible equivalent of a person’s voice, and that would make sense, because I also hated hearing my voice recorded.
A few years ago, my best friend bought me Wreck This Journal, which should’ve been perfect for me. The description reads, “For anyone who’s ever wished to, but had trouble starting, keeping, or finishing a journal or sketchbook comes Wreck This Journal, an illustrated book that features a subversive collection of prompts, asking readers to muster up their best mistake- and mess-making abilities to fill the pages of the book (and destroy them).”
Looking through it now, there’s evidence (lipstick) that I halfheartedly chewed on a page that instructed me to “chew on this” and that I did indeed “color this entire page” using pink, orange, and blue highlighters, and that I even used a page to “collect fruit stickers.” But mostly I left the page instructions unfulfilled and put it back on the shelf, barely and poorly mutilated.
It’s that pressure again.
By asking me, the reader, to “muster up [my] best mistake- and mess-making abilities” I’m inferring that it’s not enough to make mistakes and messes, and that they have to be the biggest mistakes and the messiest messes!
As if anyone would know the difference!
As if anyone has a clue what kind of mess I’m capable of.
This year, I realized that the only person standing in my way is myself. And sure, I’m afraid of fucking everything up and doing it all wrong, but I’ll be damned if I let that keep me from doing anything at all.
This year, I filled out a journal cover-to-cover.
Perhaps before this year ends, I’ll destroy one.