In addition to a blog, comics writer Warren Ellis has an email newsletter in which he updates about projects and shares his thoughts on a variety of topics. In his latest one, he talks about the stage fright writers face when they know they have to perform and aren't sure they're up to the job.
"It's the blank page thing. Aaron Sorkin talked about it a bit, at the top of one of the WEST WING scriptbooks. The blank page is the only critic that can hit you where you live. In one of the episodes, in fact, a journalist asks Sam why writing a major speech is hard, and Sam says, 'Because it's a blank piece of paper. It knows all your secrets.' In Sorkin's words, it sits there and hisses, 'I know how you've been scamming all those people all these years, GIFTLESS. You wanna dance with me?'
"And we really don't. We stare into space for hours, running themes and structures and settings through our heads. And in my case the blank page sits there and says, 'You've done that. That's old. You've said that before.' And it drives you mental."
I certainly know what he's talking about. I haven't been at this long enough for anyone or anything to tell me that I've said something before; my blank pages accuse me of rifling through other people's ideas. The thing is -- and I think Ellis would agree -- that voice is what makes you better. If you ignore it, you do end up repeating yourself or mimicking someone else. It's hard work to sit there and take the self-mockery, but it forces you to come up with new stuff to say.
And people think writing is easy.