John A. Keel, best known for penning The Mothman Prophecies, is undoubtedly my favourite author. In his first book Jadoo he spent time in the Middle East and the Orient, in search of people with odd talents. He covered all manner of tricks and oddities, from snake charmers to devil worshippers and – perhaps most disturbingly – individuals who were mummifying bodies to sell to collectors for trophies and medicine. Most of his books revolve around paranormal themes and ideas, and up until I read The Mothman Prophecies I kind of thought the whole genre was the domain of wild eyed crackpots. I was impressed by the way he presented information. I was impressed by the genuine sympathy he expressed for people. But, more than anything, I was impressed by his voice. It just made a lot of sense to me.
In Jadoo he writes:
There were no jobs to be had in Baghdad; no way to make a dinar (£1). My typewriter collected dust in my hotel room. A few times I shoved a piece of paper into it, but a blank sheet of paper is a frightening, disheartening thing to a would-be writer. I always slapped the cover shut with the paper still blank.
While the technology has changed, the ‘frightening, disheartening’ prospect has not.
I’ve barely brought pen to paper or fingers to keys in relation to my current project Heartbroken and Grieving. Admittedly I was ill for a while, and then I had this sudden need to rearrange everything in the house, but the progress (or lack thereof) is still disappointing. But the thing that really bothers me is the sense of unadulterated terror that enters my mind when I even think about sitting at the new desk in the corner of the room with a couple of blank pages and a pen.
I guess I’m a control freak, and I have really only the vaguest sense of what I am attempting to build here. I think I understand the catalyst for this project, I understand my motivations for doing it but I don’t really understand what form it will take. I just want to delve into the subject matter and explore it and see where I end up. I find myself writing paragraphs and a little voice in the back of my head goes, “I want to write poetry. Let’s write some poetry.” And I guess the takeaway is that it’s better to write something than nothing. The fear is paralysing and the only way around it is to go through it.
But while the blank page is currently my trial, I am also hoping it will be my saviour.
Because if I pause to consider my own burgeoning creativity in high school it had its genesis on blank pages. The library was my retreat and I was filled with all this emotional ‘stuff’. I used to scribble on pages in exercise books really just as a way of channeling the tension of my teenage years. But after a while those scribbles became words, first lyrics to songs I liked and ultimately my own words. I found myself expressing opinions and understandings I didn’t even know I possessed.
I want magic to happen once again. I guess, as Elizabeth Gilbert noted, for us as creative people our responsibility is to show up at the page or canvas or computer.