Friday, July 15, 2011

Give Me a Blank

There is nothing that makes my fingers itch for a fountain pen quicker than quality stationery and blank note cards. All that empty space begs to be filled in with words and news and weather reports, questions, thanks, and anything else that occurs to me. With that in mind, I decided to subtly teach my oldest grandson Jordan a lesson in etiquette that has apparently not taken root in most of my children's habits -- the thank you note and a note to Grandma.

Jordan's twelfth birthday is next week and I have already sent his gift, something fun and educational that his sister Savannah will no doubt want to use as well. I figure my son and his wife can give them clothes and toys, but I want to broaden their horizons, hence the next part of the gift I decided to send: airplane note cards with envelopes. The only thing I didn't provide was a pen. Jordan is a good student and should have quite a few pens and pencils to choose from. I am not at all averse to accepting thank you notes and letters written in pencil. I'm generous and forgiving that way.

When I checked on delivery of my grandson's gift, I noticed that it had been sent to the wrong address, two doors away, the address that my daughter-in-law provided and I neglected to change. Oh, well. I called to let them know of the problem so they could walk down to the other address and pick up the UPS form to get the gift from the UPS station. I left all this in a message since no one answered the call.

My daughter-in-law called back and left me a message. They got the slip and arranged to pick up the package today, in plenty of time before Jordan's birthday, and had received the note cards, which my grandson immediately opened and began using. That's the ticket, I thought. That's what it takes to instill a little etiquette. Provide the tools and they will use them.

Blank note cards and thick, luxurious stationery have the same effect on me. I can't wait to pick up a fountain pen and mar the surfaces with words and letters, weather and news, and ask about how things are on the other side of the country, county, and world. I wish it was so easy when writing books.

The cursor blink-blink-blinking at me reminds me that I am avoiding the task of putting down words and sentences, paragraphs and characterizations, and it mocks me. There are times when the blank screen and its blinking cursor fill me with excitement and other times when putting fingers to keyboard and letting them fly is done with as much thought as breathing or the heart beating. It's automatic, like filling blank note cards with fun and pretty covers.

Then there are the times when the idea of the blank screen is enough to send me loitering over to the games on the computer to decipher puzzles, rack up points, and while away six or eight hours that would've resulted in several chapters, or at least a good way through a first edit or proof read. It should not be this difficult. It should be as easy as putting pen to blank card and letting the ink flow, but it's not.

There are expectations in that blank screen, especially with a few books under my belt and still reeling from some negative reviews, that seem impossible to fill. What if I can't write a good story? What if I'm a fraud and have been fooling myself that I can write? What if I'd be better off slaving for a pittance of a wage instead of reaching for something deep inside myself that needs to get out, something that fills my dreams with characters and places, something that sidles in and whispers plots, adventures, and dangers and then slips away? What if...?

Whenever I'm procrastinating and not writing when I should be, I have decided to try another tack. I'll open one of those blank cards and, instead of writing a friend or relative, I'm going to write stories, snippets of chapters, dialogue, and description and maybe that way I'll finish another book. Taken in the small doses provided by blank cards, it can be done. It's kind of expensive in a way, but what else would I do with all these boxes of wonderful cards except write to people and bore them to death. Better to bore them after they've paid for a copy of the book. Even if they leave negative reviews, at least it will be a return on my investment in blank cards that I seldom get from people I write to for free.

You know, it just might work. Failing that, I'll buy some 5 x 7 index cards and use them. Small snippets, a novel a bit at a time, and, if past history is any indication, I should buy a whole lot of cards. I have things to say and stories to write.

Give a child a blank card and s/he will write a letter or thank you. Give me a blank card and I could just end up with a book.

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