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Old 01-02-2003, 06:28 PM   #1
Join Date: Sep 2002
Posts: 5,131
On blank paper...

On my desk I now, and this is a recent thing, keep 4" x 5" index cards and a pen to jot down notes. There is something undaunting about the size and the shape and the crispness and the neat blue lines beneath the single red one. I can, without fear, slip one off of the stack and cradle it in my palm as I doodle a sketch or trace out a lyric or scratch down a number. There are dozens of them with notes, haunting memories of moments that are, for the most part, disposable. I pick them up from time to time, looking for a specific moment that has fled, searching for a particular bit of wisdom or trivia. Here I find...

"New York Times
NewYork Post
New York Daily News
New York, New York"

... scrawled sloppily beneath the phone number for a business associate who has, as far as I can remember, nothing whatsoever to do with New York in any way. But now he does because he is joined with it on this card and, now, forever in my mind. I toss that aside and move on to another. In a philosophical mood I write neatly...

"Success is the ratio between the crap you have to put up with and the reward you recieve."

Another has a To Do list for a project that I am still working on. I am always amused at how often there are still items on the list that need doing... often weeks later. But the beauty of the little note cards is their disposability. They impart a lack of value to anything written on them. I can disregard them, toss them aside, throw them away without a moment's agonizing... just like thoughts.

When I was young I approached a blank page or an empty canvas with terror. I remember one of my earliest breakthroughs as an artist was the technique of throwing a thin wash of india ink at the canvas just to cover it's offending whiteness. I still do that. In the days before word processing, when we knew that any mistake would mean a complete retyping of the page, there was no help for it. There is no similar current moment to typing the first letter on a blank page.

It was an act of pollution, of defilement. The pure whiteness of fine vellum typing paper felt like a landscape of freshly fallen snow onto which any letter would, initially, inevitably appear like a tiny steaming turd. Anything I had to say was not important enough to spoil such a pristine environment. In college I used to pay someone to type my papers on my typewriter not because I couldn't but because I didn't like to... a behavior that makes sense now because of the recent revelation of my mildly obsessive compulsive nature. However, as I discuss these feelings about paper with people I find that I am far from unique.

I thank God everyday for the advent of computers and word processing (though I curse Microsoft). With them I can word and reword, I can noodle and nudge, nuance and ponder, organize and format in a disposable digital environment. When I send a document to a printer I am filling the page with text that has gravitas and import and it appears in one stroke, complete. The blank pages are hidden from my view in the paper tray. Boxes of paper become binders of text. And those moments of minor terror are gone.
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