Writers and artists talk about the fear of “the blank page”.
It is the anxiety of getting started. That sea of white perfection staring back at you waiting for you to fail. Before it is begun, the project is a perfect concept existing in the brain-o-sphere.
And every pixel or drop of brings the concept closer to reality… and potential imperfection.
The un-begun page cannot be flawed.
Every mark is a potential flaw.
That can be a pretty frightening prospect, especially if you are unsure of your ability to realize this projects potential. The cure is to train yourself to believe that getting it done is better than getting it perfect.
And, the more you get it done, the more you will trust your ability to get it right (not perfect, right).
Recently, the confidence I have gained from conquering the fear of the blank page has led me to its opposite, pride in creating the blank page.
Last week, my Rapid City Below Zero artist, Shawn Langley, submitted a completed page on which he had not drawn a single line. He did nothing but fill the entire printable area with blackness. He was happy to get his usual page rate for a page that likely could have been completed with about 4 mouse clicks. And I was happy to pay him to do it. He nailed it. That was exactly how I wrote the page.
Because that is what the story called for right then.
A page of blackness.
A less confident writer might reason that a reader is paying good money for 22 pages of writing, and a blank page is not delivering. A less confident artist might also worry that blank pages are not what readers are paying their money for.
What I know is that readers are not paying for every individual panel and word. They aren’t even paying for every individual page.
Readers are paying for 22 pages worth of story.
Handing over that three dollars is a way of saying “I trust you to tell me a story”.
And showing that blank page… that all black page… is my way of assuring that reader “I’ve got you. I know what I’m doing. I’m going to tell you a story.”
I am not trying to say that my confidence in that moment and that technique is fully earned, I am just saying that I feel it.
And, apparently, Shawn feels it as well. He cares about this project and this story, but when I told him draw a page by literally drawing nothing he happily obliged. And, not just for the easy page rate. He gets the power of the blank page.
It is similar, in the world of comedy, to the pause before the punch line. It takes real confidence to own that stage and let that set-up just float out there over everyone’s heads. And it is scary. Because if it doesn’t work then it’s just wasted time, or wasted page space.
Is it? We’ll see. But until then I am proud to have written it, proud to have it in my comic, and proud to have paid Shawn for a page on which he didn’t draw a damn thing.