the tension of nothingness

There is nothing quite so daunting as an empty page when you are the one responsible for filling it with something meaningful. What if my ideas are bad? What if nobody likes it? Heck, what if I don’t like it? 

For me, I notice that I try to fill the blank page in one pass. To have all my ideas fully fleshed out and ready for public consumption. However, this is not a realistic expectation. Part of the reason for the pressure I feel is that I have a deadline looming. Something has to be made because there is a drop-dead date out there when we have to have something amazing. 

In her book The Creative Habit, world-renowned dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp says there is a trap we fall into “that everything has to be perfect before you can take the next step.” This can stop us from starting to fill the empty page. It can also stop us from tinkering with every step along the way. 

I would much rather edit what has already been started. Taking something and making it a little better is one of my favorite things. It also distracts me from starting the next thing. I want to make it perfect before I move onto the next step. Ms. Tharp goes on to say “that this form of perfectionism is more like procrastination.” Ouch. 

The fear that something should be just right or perfect, can stop us from filling the next blank page. Whether that next page is for the next part of your current project or the next project itself, being trapped in the cycle of tweaking and tweaking and tweaking will only stop you from continuing to create.

Filling the blank page with the next thing is a habit that we must build. A muscle that needs to be exercised. To create when there isn’t any pressure. To create for the sake of creation.

Developing a routine of creation will start to build up a library of ideas. Not creativity that needs to be jammed into the next emergency creation, but ideas ready on the shelf to be accessed when needed. Build time into your schedule for putting ideas onto the blank page. Make it a regular part of your rhythm. Build the muscles of creativity on a regular basis instead of waiting until you must have an idea. This could be dialing in a new plug-in or figuring out how to use your switcher in a new way, or maybe writing a set of values for your team. 

I don’t know about you, but the best ideas I’ve ever had have come from out of nowhere, or when there hasn’t been a pressing need for something, other than I was simply creating for myself. 

Maybe 75% of your ideas will never see the light of day. That’s totally fine. I’ve found that all ideas can help lead to the other ideas that actually get made. Let your blank page become filled with all kinds of ideas. Free yourself to dream up whatever, without the pressure of success or failure. 

What blank page is paralyzing you?

How can you make time to be creative without a looming deadline?

Todd Elliott

Todd Elliott

Todd is a writer, speaker, technical artist in the local church and founder of FILO.

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MAY 7-8, 2024