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The Childlike Joy of a Blank Page

I imagine that it was a chore for my mother to walk through a store with me.

I was one of those beggar kids – the ones that saw something and immediately wanted to have it! I always thought of the possibility of crazy fun times with whatever was new, or with things I never had before.

And yet, I wasn’t an entitled child. In fact, my family was lower middle class at best. It always surprised me to return to school after Christmas break and talk to kids about what they got for Christmas – or when I talked with cousins at church Christmas morning. Being kids, we were always excited to share what we got for Christmas that year.

My haul was usually 3-4 things. It was a real shock if I received something that seemed to be worth more than $40. But my cousins and friends at school would rattle off lists of 4-5 toys, some pieces of clothing (and generally more expensive ones, like a new jacket), and then 1-2 big ticket items. Like, I couldn’t believe a kid would get a Super Nintendo AND other stuff on top of it!

I don’t share that with bitterness. Actually, receiving less for Christmas is something I’ve come to appreciate. It kept me grounded. It kept me humble. And it also helped me appreciate my parents more for trying their best. I know they wanted to shower their kids with gifts, but they just didn’t have the money. I grew up in a world of hospital bills for my father and private school tuition bills for my brothers and me. There just wasn’t much spare cash around at any time of the year.

So that’s why I must have driven my mother crazy with my completely-oblivious-to-the-fact-that-we-were-broke attitude of, “MOM! How cool would it be if I had this?!? Can I get this? Please? PLEASE?!?”

But one area where my mom broke down quite a bit – probably because it was a cheap desire to fill and we saw them everywhere we went, including the grocery store – was with notebooks and pens.

The endless possibilities of a crisp, new notebook

If you had a notebook that looked relatively cool, I wanted it. From the dull, spiral-bound cheapos to sweet, shiny blue vinyl-covered notebooks with a snap latch, I loved me a good notebook.

To me, it was like that metaphorical blank slate – a new notebook could be used for anything. There were endless possibilities, and at various points in my childhood, I sat down with a notebook and pen with dreams of being any of the following:

  • A cartoonist. I was a big fan of Calvin and Hobbes, as well as the Archie comic books. I’d get to draw, write jokes, and get paid to be funny!
  • The Great American Kid Novelist. My novel ideas were usually take-offs of concepts, ideas, and characters that were already out there. One that comes to mind was a novelized continuation of the epic Marvel vs. DC comic series, where two superheroes would be pitted against each other in crazy-awesome battles. Apparently I felt there was a market for that sort of thing, and I blatantly ignored copyright laws in the meantime.
  • An artist. Nothing could grab me like a “Learn How to Draw” book of some kind. I honestly felt I was just a few lessons away from being a brilliant artist.
  • A journalist. I tried my darnedest as a kid to document my life, but there were so many days in a row you could write variations on, “I went to school, got As, was embarrassed by something, watched cartoons, played with action figures, and went to bed.”

None of these things ever came to pass after more than a week or two. As a child with a fairly short attention span, the appeal always wore out once it started feeling like “work”.

But I allowed myself to dream. I allowed myself to see a blank page with lines as a place to put words together. I saw a line-less page as the new spot of a great sketch (even though my sketches were terrible).

I let myself get inspired by the possibilities – not by what was there and being put in front of my face, but from what was in my head. From what could be there.

Today, I still feel that part of my childhood creep in to my brain.

I still geek out over a fresh notebook. Now that I lead a slightly more interesting life than when I was 8 years old, I am journaling every night. I went out and bought a cool new journal with a leather cover a little over a week ago, and I spent almost an hour at the store looking at different ones, imagining myself documenting the deep recesses of my mind in all the different journals before I picked one out.

I still slow down at a store where I see stationery and notebooks. I like to think that there are so many epic things I can write in them and on them. I see them as places where I can talk myself through the deep wonders of the world and of my life – even if all I’m going to write about is how I hurt my hand playing volleyball or something.

It doesn’t stop at paper, either. I’ll pause in the aisles and look at the clean whiteboards up on the shelves, thinking of the brainstorming I would do on those bad boys. I have a huge one in my office here, and if I have a good marker in my hand, there’s nothing I want to do more than stand next to my big whiteboard and start drawing thought bubbles and outlines.

Even an empty Evernote document is a cool place to start taking down little snippets of thoughts in my head. I can do whatever I want in that space and organize it accordingly.

What does this mean?

I really have no idea. Maybe it means a part of my childlike wonder towards creating is still alive and well. I hope so – I think that part of being a writer is retaining some of that attitude.

But I hope that you share the same attitude in your life. We can consume and consume all we want, and that’s okay. I love to read blogs. I’ll play the occasional video game. I get addicted to good TV shows.

But at some point, that can’t be enough. We all reach a stage where we need to create something (I hope).

So go out and buy a notebook. Or buy some wood and a few hand tools. Or open a Word document. Or take a piece of paper and a pen that you have lying around.

If you were a child and you had the resources that you have now, what would you do with them? Now go do them. It’s fun, and it might even satisfy that little kid inside of you that thought he could do anything if he just had a notebook and a pen.

Were you like this as a child? Do you feel the “pull” to create something? Share in the comments.

childhood, christmas, creation, drawing, gifts, money, notebooks, parents