There is nothing scarier than a blank page on a computer screen. “Document1” opened in Microsoft Word, the cursor blinking in anticipation, is just intimidating. I mean, documents are official, they get stamped, and are frequently the subject of subpoenas. This white screen means business, setting high expectations for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and formatting. It demands perfection.
Will my writing be good enough? What will people think? Do I really have anything to say? As the typing begins, digital magic enables my timidness with a delete key, a right-click for better word choices, and easy Google access to validate my idea or spend hours searching for the perfect image to accompany it. Often, my need for perfection and fear of judgment has surrendered to the intimidating emptiness of the screen with the page remaining unfinished and unseen. The blank page is my kryptonite (she stops to Google kryptonite and verify its aptness for use here).
Recently at the beginning of a yoga class, our warm-hearted instructor handed out 3 x 5 scraps of paper and invited each of us to write down a few examples of the negative things we tell ourselves. I first made a joke about needing more paper, but then I found I couldn’t put pencil to page. Even though negative self-talk is what I do – all. the. time. – I froze. It was that damn blank page. My list that only I would see had to be right, to be articulated just so. Could I ask a clarifying question about this assignment? I needed more time to think through the ways I beat myself up, to prioritize them, and edit them, to make sure the list was the best list ever. Yeesh!
I thought about my desire to be a writer and the opportunity I had in front of me now that I was no longer working and got started. As I wrote, the page quickly filled.
- I don’t have enough discipline.
- I’m afraid I will fail.
- I am too old to start something new.
- I don’t know enough about the process.
- I am lazy.
- Who am I to do this?
- Who will care what I have to say?
- I don’t know how to write.
- I do not want to put myself “out there.”
In just a minute or two, I had compiled this list. Looking at it, I had to resist the urge to add another doubt or fear, because, you know, “Top Ten” is better than “Top Nine.” Fortunately, my yoga instructor intervened.
“Now, revise your list.” She asked us to rewrite each disparagement as an affirmation. She suggested we think about how small adjustments can have a big impact, like the way we can improve on our yoga poses with a subtle shift of posture or alignment of bones and muscle. “What you repeat, becomes your reality,” she said, and then repeated.
What you repeat becomes your reality.
On the surface, I would have interpreted this as good advice for exercising daily or breaking a bad habit, but now I thought about how similar this was to my own credo that you make your own luck, so I gave it a try.
- I will find the determination that is already within me.
- If I fail, at least I was brave enough to try.
- I am too old NOT to restart.
- I don’t know enough,
- I need time, and I am making progress.
- I am meant to be a writer.
- I have something valuable to share.
- My writing will improve with every day.
- I am excited to do this!
I was beginning to see how shifting from negative to positive self-talk might just help me overcome the tyranny of the blank page.
Which leads me to that coveted #10 for my list. Five or six years ago, I started a blog and published a few dozen pieces. I loved working on it and was generally happy with the writing but showed it to almost no one, afraid of getting my feelings hurt. Why? People won’t like it and, by association, me.
What you repeat becomes your reality.
That blog had a different name, but the same tag line as this one – work in progress – which might lead you to believe I’d be a little easier on myself. I’m working on that, but in the meantime, I’m just going to be braver and make my own reality by putting those affirmations into practice, repeating them as I unreservedly fill page after page. I believe you will like it.
- Just start. Put fingers to keyboard, paddle to water, brush to canvas. Know that you will get better with every stroke.
- Silence the negative self-talk and start being your own cheerleader.