The Divining Wand

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Guest Julie Buxbaum on
The Terror of the Blank Page

August 03, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Imagine Julie Buxbaum (After You, The Opposite of Love) being afraid to share her insight, honesty, and humor in writing! It’s true and — in today’s guest post — she not only confesses but explains how/why her “transformation” to being an author took place.]

The Terror of the Blank Page

I’m pretty sure there are only two kinds of writers in this world. The ones who spent their childhood dragging around piles of journals and their free time actually writing, and the ones like me, who for years only wrote in their heads. The biggest difference between the first and the second, I think, besides using paper, is that the first embraced what I like to call their inner writerdom, while the latter succumbed to the fear. When an option, fear seems to suit me.

For those of us who fancy ourselves writers, but have never written anything (and I was one of those people for a very long time, so believe me when I say I’m not judging) there is nothing more terrifying than the blank page. The idea is so terrifying in fact, that we choose to ignore it altogether and pursue alternative means of spending our lives. For me, I ran from the page by going to law school, and spending four years as an attorney, where I could fill pages by regurgitating case law, slewing together other people’s sentences. And only in the dark hours of night, or sometimes in the shower, would I write for myself, rearrange words until they meant something, only to get lost by morning, or when I put my foot on the bathmat, as if writing was some sort of dirty secret. Ah, it’s amazing what fear can do.

In college, my roommate took a fiction-writing course, and because I was too scared to share my work—no worse, I was too scared to create any work—I didn’t take the class, but read her syllabus again late at night, as if it was something to be shameful of. Neither did I turn my love of reading (and my distaste for numbers) into a major. Nope, again the fear kept me away and I embraced Philosophy, Political Science, Economics (Economics, really?), anything to avoid having to put my own thoughts, my own words onto paper. And still the paragraphs would line up at night, march into order, where I played with them, as if they were a game, not a way of life.

The funny thing is that when I finally embraced my identity as a writer, quit my job and plunged head first, I suddenly wasn’t scared at all. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I really, really hated my job, but I like to think that I needed to do all these other things first to know I was ready. Come to think of it, maybe there are two kinds of writers in the world. The ones who are born ready, and the rest of us who need to struggle just a bit first before we can face that terrifying blank page.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Alicia Bessette’s Simply from Scratch in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Alicia Bessette and Simply from Scratch. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

5 Comments to “
Guest Julie Buxbaum on
The Terror of the Blank Page


  1. Aww… I was the other kind of writer, the kind that was born ready, and I do feel so lucky that I’ve never been afraid to share my words or attack the blank page. But this is such a lovely look into the minds of the other kind of writer, and a smile-inducing success story to boot. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. so far the blank page isn’t scary to me but the page full of words that may or may not be good is terrifying.

    great post! thanks for sharing.

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  3. Oh, my, does this sound familiar! Long a bookworm, I didn’t attempt to write for the longest because I couldn’t since, you know, only Writers wrote. I know just what you mean!

    Great post.

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  4. Jesus Christ, Julie, you just told my story! Thanks for sharing. It really is nice to know I’m not the only one that ignored (i.e. cowered from) my dreams for so long.

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  5. Oh Julie, thank you for sharing this with all of us. I was just like you in college…too afraid to take a creative writing course or even a literature course even though I have loved books all my life. It’s only now that I am learning to write for the joy of it, and not to care what anyone else thinks.

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