On blank pages, bookshelves and writerly confidence

Blank pages comfort me. It’s something I never thought I’d say. The pressure of college deadlines erased the freedom of blank pages for a few years, paragraphs often sheared or stretched, tweaked or tortured to fit the word count, the required structure — something.

Since graduating, I’ve found renewed writerly peace, strangely, in blank and inked pages alike, each providing a sense of comfort etched at opposite ends of the innovation spectrum. Earlier this week, I had the afternoon off work, so I spent it at Ephemera, my favorite stationery store in Des Moines’ East Village, and Central Library.

The stationery store is a source of confidence, each blank postcard quietly calling, “Hey there, Writer. You’ve got things to say. Say them!” An assortment of empty cards and notebooks form a wobbly stack atop my bookshelf, their empty pages a reminder that there is always, thankfully, something to say.

That premise can, of course, be dangerous, which is where the library comes in. It’s appropriate that the books are enclosed in a semi-transparent, gold façade, the reflective panels inviting me while lending the building an intimidating grandeur. The library is a polite reminder that it’s OK to have confidence as a writer, but it’s equally important to read, to inhabit others’ stories and selves, shaping my own in the forver-humbling process.

My apartment, fittingly, is almost exactly halfway between the stationery boutique and the library. Every day, I strive for writing that strikes a balance between inspiration from the memoirists and autobiographers whose books are permanently anchored below the cup of tea on my coffee table (don’t worry, there’s a coaster) and the blank pages perched a tad greedily on the shelf, each giving me an overzealous writerly pep talk.

Somewhere in the middle, as I teeter between caution and confidence, the page transforms from blank to black and white.

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