To think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted. ~George Kneller
I just got done with my first theatrical performance in my new city of Janesville and I had an enjoyable experience making new friends and finding a community where I belong. It was a small part, which I am grateful for, as the fear of tackling something too big in anew city strikes terror in my soul.
Thus, I haven’t been writing due to time constraints. And the Theory of Blank, which I postulated during the play.
We are busy people. Sometimes too busy. Running from work to some social thing. Back to work. Stop at the store. Cook dinner. Clean house. Pick up the kid. Run, run, run, run, run. While we are at work, we think about home. At home, we think about work. We plan dinner while watching the kids’ soccer game and field texts for Friday night while shopping at the grocery store.
I admit it. Sometimes, those things creep into my sleep.
We find very little time in our lives to be blank. But as I look at my new life, hence a new sort of shuffle, I have discovered that I am attracted to activities that require blankness of the mind.
Even my job. I’ve found that one of the most important factors to working with the autistic is the ability to put everything away. These kids pick up on a bad day like you couldn’t believe. Worry about bills or boyfriends translate into rough work. You have to walk in blank, leaving the mess of living behind. Theory of Blank. Put it away.
Then, take acting. I’ve enjoyed the different characters that I’ve played on stage. Dumb young socialite. Disapproving wife. Only the single mother in Miracle on 34th Street came close to my own personal experiences. Yet, even she had to take on a different persona than the one I wear in my own life. My experiences were not hers. So, I’ve adapted a system, if you will, or habits that I practice before every performance that allow me to put away the struggles of my own life and just become blank. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to hide my disgust at a dumb, young Bunny. Leave your opinions at the door. Be blank.
During the play, I tried to work on my short story late at night after practices. But I found that it was impossible. Night after night, I stared with frustration at a blank scream until I was ready to cry. Or spit. Or scream. I couldn’t understand my characters. Their motivations became lost in a fog of themes.
And I do mean themes, with a capital S. At one point, I counted eight different themes that I apparently wanted to tackle in a three to four thousand word short story.
I finally gave up. I couldn’t be blank enough for anything to make sense. Every night, my job and the character I was playing on stage came home with me. Lines to memorize kept leaping into my head rather than character motivations.
The Theory of Blank. When writing a story, be blank. Let go of your opinions, beliefs, prejudices, and preconceived notions about what the story should say. I liken it to raising Jaz to be a top state debater, only to find out that he wants to try his hand at comedy improv. He’s finding his own way because I let him chose his own story. Stories on the page will do the same thing.
But what about passions? Every writer has passions that they would love to infuse into their stories. Points that they want to make. Opinions they want to drive deep with a stake. Mine lean toward feminism and poverty. I could easily sit down and write stories intended to force my views on both. But the stories always read…well, contrived. Passion is lost. When I write blank, my passions find a way to wriggle into the story line on their own and the story comes to life. True passions don’t need to be forced. They will find a way to weave themselves into the undercurrents.
So, write blank. Let the stories tell themselves. The readers will bring their own baggage into it. No point in cluttering it up with yours.