Paying for School

My ongoing adventures in life and the pursuit of more...

Monday, November 14, 2011


It's amazing how hard it is to get past the blank page of Word.  I've got a paper coming due that I've started about 10 times now.  Actually, I've started to start it 10 times.  Not once have I gotten past that first blank page.

I write most of my weekly sermons/talks out - word for word.  I don't deliver them that way but I've got the text there - I'm used to filling up blank pages.  Somehow the idea of this 5-8 pages of double spaced verbiage has left me more anxious than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  I know what I want to say but seeing it in print in front of me is daunting.  Once committed to print it will become at risk of judgement.  A grade.

There is an awareness growing inside of me that deep down I'm going to do this wrong.  I'm not afraid of people disagreeing with me.  I'm not afraid of a low grade because the prof thinks my point is rubbish.  What's affecting me in this assignment is the same thing that creeps up and paralyses me in other endeavours: I'm afraid I'll do it wrong.  My fear is that I'll have missed the point entirely and turned something in that is not what the assignment is asking for.

I could blame the 30 years since my last assignment like this.  But the simple truth is that this dogs me all over the place when I'm trying to satisfy a request that I feel is ambiguous.  Generally it's not as ambiguous as it feels, it's just that I don't want to fail to meet expectations and telling me to do A, B and C makes me feel much more in control than telling me to describe the scene outside my window.  What do you want to know?  Are you asking for something poetic, literal or scientific?  Should I keep it simple and straightforward or should I drag out the thesaurus?  And my mind is off and running and paralysed all at once.

One thing that's becoming clear in this process is that educating Brian is about a whole lot more than the books I'm reading or the lectures I'm taking in.

Today I will get at least one paragraph on this blank screen and I'll give myself permission to fail because trying and failing sounds more satisfying than failing to try.

Do you have any favourite tips on getting past the blank page?    


  1. Perhaps, if you continue to feel a block or reservation you could contact the prof for some clarification or reassurance? A little confidence will go a long way in helping you communicate effectively. Good luck!

  2. I like a noisy cafe sort of place where there are a lot of people and sort of a constant mid range noise level to engage the noise in my head -- all those "what if's" and "oh no's" and "I cannot find a single word to put on this page". Music doesn't work, it has to be more cluttery than that.Then sometimes I can hear the small bit that has some sort of clue about what to write first. Either that or take up yoga.

  3. Thanks for the input! I managed to get a whole page filled up and a good sense of where the whole thing is going!

    My body doesn't bend any more Beth!