By Amanda Cleary Eastep
Nothing is more exciting, or more terrifying, than facing a blank page.
That’s true for more than writers.
Today, my lifelong friend faces a blank page each day. It seems to her that little is left of the story she spent so many years painstakingly writing in blood tears prayers struggles. I have played a major and minor character at different points in it but have always been a fan always rooting for her, the protagonist, because I love her. We weren’t always friends, but God has funny plans. Supposedly he is writing our stories along with us, but trusting him gets tough.
I’m facing a blank page today. It’s only chapter 5 of a second novel manuscript. I started to write it years ago during a dark time. I don’t write well out of dark times, but then no one is asking me to. We think, as writers, we are supposed to…to create some masterpiece out of our despair, our pain, our loss.
But I was just trying to get through the next day then. Just like my friend is now. I used story to help me through. I read a psalm of David each day. I figured, Get me through the next 150, a chapter a day. There are faded pencil notes in the margins of my Bible.
Writing a fictional story is different, of course. No one’s life is depending on your book. Not that you know of yet. Although books and stories have saved us…have saved our lives and souls and sanity.
Now I’m in a healthy place. I told my friend she will be someday again. Things will look different.
There are things we can control and so much we can’t, not even everything we do, especially when we’re broken, when our children and others see us in the light of half truths and their own pain.
But we write one word each day, live out the briefest sentence or the longest because we must.
Sometimes my words feel like headlights bouncing off a wall of fog. Fog is one of the scariest things to drive in. I remember the boy at the Baptist church who liked me in high school. He died a few years later when he pulled in front of a school bus on a foggy morning.
That is the terror of the unknown. In our lives and even in the work, like writing, we struggle to do well or just plain do. That we will step out and be struck. That it will hurt. Again again again. That we won’t make it.
But fogs always lift. Always. Words come, days pass, we take a small step, find the right verb, smile again, grow the tiniest bit stronger, trust God because we love him or we don’t have the strength to do anything else.
I started sending my friend a verse from each chapter of the Psalms each day, because words, the Word, have power. We should chose them as wisely as we do our food and friends and spouses and careers and vacations.
They are fire. Words are fire. Do they warm or destroy? Do they light our stories from within and shed a welcoming light for others?
My friend, I am looking today at this empty page and wondering why it matters if I write anything at all. Who cares? What difference do I, does it make? God says all the difference. Because we, you are loved. We are called to write walk live our whole stories.
Move forward with me. One page word letter at a time, if you must. I love your story, because you are in it. The one I’m writing is fictional, but I’ll still pour myself into it. I will take it up again after all this time, because I owe it to the words now that I’m out of the darkness.
We are supposed to write from our scars, not our wounds, it is said. I’ll do that. I’ll use my words for you and for myself, for my children and for yours, for the God who calls me to the empty page.