A new year has begun, and as it does we post our new calendars with all new spaces, waiting to be filled with appointments and dates, celebrations and sorrows.
For writers, this should be the time we open a new document, a new journal, a new reporter's notebook. Make this the year you set a goal to explore the story that's been simmering in your imagination. Release the manuscript you put away a few years ago, thinking it unpublishable, and revise it. Give yourself the gift of time and set aside a portion of your day -- no matter how small -- to write.
Some people embrace change, others fear it. Change brings about the unexpected. To change means we are forced out of our comfort zones. We must sink or swim, run or be left behind.
For many of us, change begins with a blank page and the decision to fill first one, then another, and another. On rare occasions, the page fills quickly. But mostly we stare at that blank page, fearing that we won't have anything worthwhile to fill it with.
When I wrote the last book in the Kevin Kirk Chronicles series, The Final Farewell, I knew Kevin would be faced with many blank pages: life after high school, college, the choice whether or not to serve a mission. As he journeyed through his senior year of high school, his future just beyond the horizon, he had decisions to make. Some were easy. A few, like whether to serve a mission, were not.
The answers were not there for him. He had to make the effort to find them for himself. There were tools all around him, friends and family for support, experiences he could draw from, to help him as he made that final decision. Throughout the book the blank page loomed, waiting for the time when Kevin decided to sit down, make his choice and write the first sentence.
It's tough to choose sometimes; tough to commit to something when you have no assurance it will be successful. But what if you don't commit? What if you don't do that thing you dare?
What if you don't fill that page?
Sometimes, it may not matter. But most of the time, it matters a lot. Maybe not for others, but it will matter to you.
Many missionaries will serve their entire mission and not have an opportunity to baptize someone. Yet many of those missionaries will tell you what they learned about themselves during those two years of service made the mission worth it. They learned about compassion from their experiences in the mission field, they gained a greater understanding of the gospel by working with priesthood leaders, members, and the public. They become more sensitive to the subtle messages of the Spirit. They learned to be more reliant on the Lord.
Do concert pianists consider the years of lessons and practice to be a waste because they didn't earn any money for practicing? No. Do marathon runners look at the miles they ran in preparation for a race to be hours spent running nowhere? Of course not.
And neither should we, as writers, think of writing as an idle activity. It's our practice, our workout, preparing us for all the blank pages that will come in our lives, blank pages that only we can fill.
Don't be afraid of blank pages.
Don't be afraid to embrace change.