The Reflection Behind the Blank Page

Resistance to doing the work and the courage to persist

Jul 05, 2022

Creative Writing Creative Process Personal Development Artist
woman’s reflection in a puddle

Photo by Lucas Lenzi

The desk arrived, finally, after four months of waiting. My writing desk, as I call it. Beautiful rustic whitewash finish. I’d like to believe it was the desk not having been delivered yet that kept me from writing, but I know how untrue that is. I’d like to tell myself that I wasn’t writing because my “writing room” was not complete, what with the unfinished walls and all, multiple paint samples next to each other, none making the cut. I was going for a gentle shade of sage green, soothing, inviting, muse-friendly. I hadn’t found it yet, so I settled for wallpaper instead. “Dancing Leaves” was the name of the design; the leaves close enough to the shade I was looking for. It still sits, unwrapped, on the floor.

I used to live in a one-bedroom apartment with my husband; my excuse then? Not enough creative space. Now I live in a house, with an entire room dedicated to my creative outlet. The desk sits there, waiting, along with the armless, upholstered chair I ordered to go with it, enrobed in a soft, ivory floral fabric with a nailhead trim. A pencil holder uniquely in the shape of a scroll sits on the desk, accompanied by an antique blue tabletop clock I found in a boutique shop downtown. It was the two birds on top that drew me to the clock. Inspirational art — some with words, some just images — surrounds the room. I even hung my “Do Not Disturb, Writer at Work” sign on the door handle. In every way possible, I have laid the groundwork for a successful writing life. The only thing missing? The only thing that actually matters — the writer, writing.


There are a million and one reasons not to pursue our creative calling. None that I can think of have any validity. All are made up, poor excuses… lies we tell ourselves that are so close to believable, we don’t question them.

“I don’t have time.”

“I don’t have space.”

“I have a full-time job.”

“I have the longest to-do list today.”

“I don’t have my favorite writing pen.”

“I need to buy a new journal.”

“My life is so boring, I don’t know what to write about.”

“I just don’t feel like it.”

“I don’t feel inspired.”

“I’ll definitely write this weekend.”

“When ____________ happens, then I can write.”

And on and on it goes. Who knew that the mere act of sitting down and staring at a blank page could be met with such violent resistance that one avoids it at all cost? This is what I continue to grapple with. Today, at least, I’m trying not to let resistance win.

When our focus is primarily on obtaining the tools and designing the space we need to do our creative work, that can almost certainly be our cue that we are resisting doing the work. But why the resistance to begin with? Why so intense? So relentless? What am I resisting?

Myself. That’s usually the culprit in these cases, is it not? The ego refusing to go down without a fight. The ego trying to maintain the status quo, the crown upon her haughty head. If we sit in front of a blank screen long enough, it transforms into a mirror, showing us our own inner reflection. And more often than not, we’d rather not see what’s staring back at us. It is too painful, too embarrassing, terribly messy.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

― Ernest Hemingway

But alas, we can only avoid ourselves for so long before we begin to trip over the piles of excuses and distractions we’ve built up. We can only erect so many walls to keep the pain out before we find ourselves in a prison of our own making. We may succeed in avoiding the pain of facing our shadows, but this is not the way into the light. This is not the way of growth. There is no substitute for doing the work — in our creative pursuits and in our personal development. No shortcuts, no magic trick, no time machine to speed up the process. It takes as long as we allow it to take.

The tighter we grip onto the parts of us that are familiar, as much as they no longer serve us, the longer we will spend doing the work. And the more energy we expend on remaining the same. Because change takes energy. But so does maintaining our ego. Oh the energy we waste making sure we’re right all the time. Isn’t it exhausting? Are we not called to something more? Aren’t we capable of building anything other than walls to keep from feeling too much?

It will catch up with us, whatever it is we’re running from, whatever we’re resisting. How do we know it has caught up? We find ourselves in a sour mood for no apparent reason. We argue with our partners at an alarmingly higher rate, for no apparent reason. We clean every corner of our home, and it still doesn’t look clean enough. The distractions that used to work no longer keep us distracted for long. Everything around us feels like a trigger. We avoid loved ones. We master the art of projecting. The list goes on…

Resistance and doing the work cannot coexist. We are forever engaged in one or the other.

I don’t know that we ever “arrive.” Especially for those of us who have chosen to spend our lives in a creative pursuit, putting forth our soul’s offering out into the world, doing the work is an occupational hazard. We cannot create work we’re proud of that isn’t tied to our deepest self. And how do we get to know that self on a level necessary to put forth our art? It’s not by resisting, that’s for sure. It’s by showing up, time and time again, and facing the blank page, looking into that mirror, and being unafraid of what we find.

Maybe all resistance is, in its purest form, is an invitation.

An old friend asking you to come over for a cup of earl gray tea. To sit and chat and dream together. To be reminded of who you are and are becoming. Perhaps we are being invited to join the collective of creators all engaged in the same mission: to shape the broken fragments of our human experience into an artform that others might recognize and value. Are we not made for such a time as this? There is work to be done. There are messages the world needs to hear. Let us be brave enough to go after our calling, in spite of resistance’s ruthless pursuit. Because I, for one, have grown weary of running. My energy is better spent staring at blank screens. Perhaps, eventually, the reflection staring back at me won’t be cause for evasion, but rather, gently keep me in my floral chair, as a writer… writing.