There’s something particular that writers get scared of when no one else is around. It’s not writers block. That comes and goes, younger writers tend to let it overwhelm them, but as you get older you learn that the best way to deal with writer’s block is to write through it. It doesn’t matter what you write to write through it, just write something, feel your fingers typing, maybe the mechanical action of writing alone will make your brain work again. But there is one fear that never goes away: the fear of the blank page.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that fearing the blank page is similar to writer’s block. You’d be forgiven for thinking so, of course you’d be wrong too, but it’s an understandable mistake. Writer’s block is about not being able to write. It’s about the inability to get past a sentence or two without thinking that the ideas embodied in that sentence are worthless. This is why you need to write through the block, force yourself to get past those ideas. The fear of the blank page is more primal, more urgent. It’s a fear of the limitless possibilities that page represents. You don’t know what will come up on that blank page. You don’t know if it’ll be good or bad, you don’t know if it’ll become something that you wish you’d never written or something that finally makes you as a writer.
As I write this, it’s twelve twenty three in the morning. I’m sitting in my newly painted room in Los Angeles. It’s my first night where I’m not on a friend’s couch, and all of a sudden that blank page is in front of me. Up until this moment, there’s been an outline I’ve been following. Find a place. Get it fixed up. Get a bike. Learn some North Hollywood roads. Get some furniture. Paint the apartment. I spent probably about nine hours in the last two days priming and painting this place. Now, there’s very little left to do. I still need a piece of furniture or two, I need my desk because I don’t much like writing on a mattress with my computer on my stomach, but that’s almost sorted out too. And now there’s this blank page… what happens next? Time for that horribly unthought out job search, taking me down who knows what path for who knows how long, meandering through multiple job hunting avenues, never knowing which one will actually lead to work and which one will just be a colossal waste of my time. I will admit, for the first time since coming out here, I feel scared. But I think it’s a good kind of scared. At least, I’d like it to be a good kind of scared.
This week, Page is going to announce that the NYC Skeptics Board has decided to end the Gotham Skeptic. That means we’re not going to be talking so much anymore. It’s an ending, and I’m not going to lie when I say that – to me at least – it sucks. But se la vie, right? Because endings aren’t just endings, they’re new beginnings. The fear of something ending is really that same fear of the blank page. Who knows what will come next? Maybe we’ll all get to find some new avenue for discussion, maybe we won’t. I hope we do, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
I want to say that writing for all of you over the past year and change has been a great joy for me. I’ve loved being able to connect with all of you. The Gotham Skeptic has allowed me to get in huge arguments that don’t really have consequences with people I don’t ever see, and for me there’s something really fun about that. It’s gotten me out into the world, it got me into a debate at a Christian University, which is something I never expected that I’d do. It earned me the ire of skeptics world over as they lambasted me for using the wrong definitions to words I assumed I knew. It introduced me to friends that I hope to treasure for years to come, and it let me feel like I was actually a part of the skeptical movement.
I hope I’ve been able to give folks something to think about over the past while. Above all else, I hope I’ve gotten it into someone’s head out there that being a skeptic means getting out in the world and arguing. I hope someone out there understands that being a little bullheaded doesn’t mean you’re being a dick, it just means that you understand you’ve got a conflicting opinion, and that you shouldn’t be afraid of that conflict.
Over the years I’ve been a lot of things. I’ve been a Jew. I’ve tried to be a Taoist (it didn’t take), I’ve been a cynic and I’ve been a skeptic. But being a part of the NYC Skeptics, being a part of this movement has made me something I never thought I’d be. It’s made me a bit of an optimist. At least, I hope so.
Signing off from LA.
Jake Dickerman, The Quixotic Man