Something I often have to remind myself as a writer

Starry Night, by Vincent Van Gogh

On Quora, someone posted the question:

Why am I so intimidated by a blank page staring up at me in my sketch book? Why is it so hard for me to just dive in?

My answer goes way back to something I learned getting my MFA, and basically it comes down to this:

A book (or short story or painting or movie or any creative work) comes to life and dies several times over.

When you have the blank page, the creative work lives in perfection in your mind. The first mark on the page begins its death.

But as you continue, the draft on the page finds new life, a stronger life. And as you rework and revise, it dies again. When you’re struggling, that can be hard to face. But when it’s going well—and by that I mean when you persist and don’t give up—the work is reborn.

And repeat.

With each revision, the work starts to take on a life beyond what you initially imagined.

And when you stop (because are you ever really done?) and put it out there, the work stands on its own, like it or not, coming to life in the minds of those who experience the work. If your work was successful, the audience gets something of what you had intended, what you yourself saw in that moment when you stopped.

And sometimes we just can’t see our own work clearly anymore. It has come to life and died so many times, we no longer can tell. That is when we have to trust our craft. And beta readers. And editor.

Sometimes the work lives on, going far beyond the greatest hopes of its creator. Sometimes it shines for a while and then the audience, the culture moves on. Sometimes the work wilts on its own. We can’t nurture it anymore. It must stand on its own. That’s the risk every creative artist takes when putting a work out there.

And succeed or fail, we try again, starting with that blank page.

It all starts with the first mark. Until then, all we have is just another idea nobody else will experience.