The Blank Page

The empty page: it’s a mixture of both the most beautiful opportunity and the most tiresome, bothersome reminder that you’ve. got. nothing. Eventually, given enough frustrated dedication, it may simply become the arbitrator of procrastination, the humiliating advocate of “turn off the computer and go to bed.” When your only profound realization is that you have no profound realizations, the blank page becomes more like sitting in church on a Sunday morning with a hangover, reeking of cheap beer and creeping inhibition. Though your vision is muddled, you see through its stain-glassed façade, discard all of its supposed possibilities and potential, and as you look down at your shoe and wonder if the stain on your toe is blood, booze or semen, it hits you: Jesus Christ, what the fuck am I doing here?

So give up. Accept that you’re, in this moment, a failure. Jesus is not coming and he doesn’t have any brilliant ideas for you to expand upon. No one is going to hold your hand and guide your fingers to your next astounding literary achievement. You decided you wanted to be a writer but you’re not writing. So, what’s your alternative? A drinker. You can drink, and you will, in the vain hope that this next glass is going to loosen the hinges on the floodgates of brilliance that lie within the depths of your prematurely shriveled mind.

But it doesn’t. All that it loosens is your idea of responsibility, and maybe your ability to keep anything in your stomach. You forgot to eat again and as such, find yourself sitting hunched over the toilet bowl, staring into the dark remnants of drink number god-knows-which. As you watch the acidic mixture float in the stagnant water before you, you wonder: is this my great masterpiece?

If you’re lucky, diligent and have any sort of notable talent, it is possible for this archaic process to be punctuated by eventual success. You can only drink your way to stupidity so many times before you eventually and accidentally stumble over a naked and vulnerable creature of inspiration—a fetal reflection of your lost potential. It is then your job to nurture and build this aborted mutation before near-sobriety jealously casts it away from your clutches. It is imperative that you not tell yourself “I’ll remember this in the morning,” because you will not.  Know that there is no greater deterrent of brilliance than a throbbing headache and the humiliating illumination of the rising sun. So go ahead, write it down. 

Suddenly, you’ll find, you’re no longer staring at a blank page.

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An Aspiring Writer’s University Experience: Varying Degrees of Bullshit

 

If you were to ask me when I decided I wanted to try my hand at writing for a living, I would not be able to give you a specific answer. Rather than an illuminating moment where I knew, “I am going to be the next Stephen King,” you could say I experienced a gradual realization that there is simply no other profession I could see myself enjoying. I can’t imagine myself crunching numbers in a cubicle—although I do look good in glasses—and one might say I’m about as cut out for arguing philosophy or studying engineering as Hemingway was suited for sobriety. Considering these conflictions, my answer seemed clear; I enrolled in the English Honours program at the University of Guelph, Ontario, where I was destined to absorb literature and hone my given craft.

There I spent my first semester alternatively drunk or crying—often times both.  I found it absolutely horrifying that I might have to rebuild my social relevance amongst thousands of equally drunk and confused teens. It was around this time that I, in a debatably emotionally stable state, happened upon my now current boyfriend. It was a modern day fairy tale; we met through a mutual friend on Facebook. From there, we were electronically inseparable, texting and Skyping throughout the day. I compensated for my varying social life with my beautiful, Australian Internet boyfriend. It was through this support, and much coddling from my older cousin—who let me know that he spent much of first year crying on the phone to his mother—that I managed to make friends and hold it together until second year.

There, as a result of a series of ill-fated events, I found myself living with three girls I did not know. Individually, they were perfectly nice people, but because they were my roommates, I was inescapably led to feel an irreparable disdain towards all of them that I cannot shake to this day.  Second year also allowed me to focus on what I had unknowingly come to university for: to pay thousands of dollars to close-read books by other authors, while not actually writing anything myself. Fueled by the contempt I felt for my housemates and Charles Dickens, I relentlessly counted the days until Christmas break, wherein I could finally fly to Australia.

By the time I returned to Canada and reached my third year, discouraged by the assaulting weather and continuingly disappointing university experience, I arrived at another realization: I actually loathed school. I would have rather eaten my own spleen than be forced to sit through another semester of classes I had lost passion and interest for. So, like any dispassionate student, I then decided on the only logical alternative: after cutting my degree short a year, I would permanently move to the other side of the world to a place filled with sun, sand and beaches. There, I could live amongst my bronzed commonwealth counter-parts while they collectively laughed at the way I pronounced the word “about” and told me how disgusting poutine sounds.

Now that I’ve made this move to the land down under a reality, once I’m tanned and tired of working my undesirable-yet-necessary-to-live part-time job, I assume I’ll wonder if I’ve led myself to become a desperate, premature, writer’s cliché. Then, under the weight of my student-loan debt, I’ll recognize that I can and always have been able to write—with or without my diploma. While it would be impossible to deny the fact that university allowed me to make close friends, mature significantly, and become well read, I’ll know from my heart to my pen that it was not necessarily imperative to my inevitable career in writing.

At this moment of realization, I will be struck with a force stronger than sunstroke; a brilliant idea for a novel will immerse me like a salty, unforgiving ocean wave. I will write it, and publish it, and Stephen King, my biggest fan, will join me at the beach every weekend thereafter. He’ll tell me that cutting my four-year Honours degree short was the best idea I’ve ever had. We’ll laugh over margaritas, cheers to each other’s extreme successes, and amicably argue about which of us looks better in glasses.

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