Blank space

“Class, take 5 minutes and write anything you like.”

For many writers this is a dream come true—no rules, just write. For me that blank
page is a glaring spotlight that sends my imagination scurrying like a mouse into
the corners and crevices of my cerebrum. I am mentally paralyzed as I stare at the
pen in my hand, waiting for ink and inspiration to flow. My eyes shift to my
neighbors scribbling madly, apparently jotting down literary gold on command.
And if a clever spark does catch fire, it’s always after the 30 second warning to
finish up your thoughts.

In my thirties I signed up for aptitude testing, even though that’s usually done in
high school. The results indicated my ideal job was as a music editor since a
discriminating ear and an eye for detail were my strengths. My weaknesses were
very low spatial ability which explained my lack of navigational skills, and a rather
low level of ideaphoria—the ability to rapidly generate ideas and think outside the

As a writer my talent has always been in using words creatively, finding that right
way to say what I want to say—my editing skills on full display. But pulling
something out of the air, or any other place, and waxing poetically in the time it
takes to boil an egg? Not so much. I need time to reflect and marinate, to wander
off the beaten path and meet up with my muse.

The current literary market values the overflowing mind full of unconventional
characters and crazy, convoluted plots. Today it’s the author whose mind races
with curiouser and curiouser ways to tell a story who finds an agent, gets the book
deal, publishes the best seller. Unfortunately, the characters in my stories are all
too human, the settings are close to home not in galaxies far, far away, and the
plots deal with the dilemmas of daily life, not the dark side. And, the words and
images that fill my pages tend to make readers laugh, sigh, or cry—not run
screaming to their therapists.

However, in order to nurture a more spontaneous and inventive imagination, I’ve
begun writing to a prompt each morning, hoping to train my brain to respond on
cue. I’m also reading diverse genres to get outside my comfort zone and see a
wider range of possibilities. But, I’ve accepted that my skittish creativity will
always be more comfortable sneaking out from under my pillow in the middle of
the night, rather than braving the light of day in a writing workshop.

Whatever the vision we have for our million, or one in a million, ideas, how
blessed we are to be able to write—about anything.

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