The Blank Page & Vulnerability

Brave: visual journal page by Lisa Sonora

A visual journal sketchbook I made out of 3×5 index cards, hole-punched and bound with ring binders. All of the supplies are from the office supply store, including the art supplies.

Every time I teach and facilitate, I learn something new.

Right now, typing up these words, I feel that familiar mix of emotions: excitement, and also nervousness. Eagerness, mixed with trepidation. Deep desire to share this work, fear that someone won’t like it.

Can you see the push/pull and paradoxical nature of these feelings? There is a handy word that describes the experience: vulnerability.

No matter how many sketchbooks I’ve filled, or how many milestone projects accomplished, I still feel vulnerable and tender whenever I create something new.

What if I listened to the fear, and it crowded out my desire?

What if my nervousness got the better of me, and dampened my enthusiasm and excitement?

Have you ever had that happen with your ideas?

When the negative forces win out, nothing gets created. That used to happen to me a lot. When I spent years (decades?) over thinking an idea before giving it form.

It may seem on the surface that all of this sharing comes easily or naturally to me. But it doesn’t.

It took me many years to get over abject terror and share my work. Now it’s not quite so terrifying, and fear doesn’t stop me as much as it used to.

But still, creating something new makes me vulnerable.

Using our creative gifts is a sacred act, and invokes our heart and emotions.

If we’re creating anything that’s ours, it’s a work from the heart.

We feel desire, love, and also…fear. All wrapped up together.

We can learn to have compassion for the fear that will always find ways to rise up and bully us the moment we go toward what we love most.

Because the act of creating something new (or learning something new) makes us vulnerable.

Often, vulnerability is experienced less an emotion, and more as resistance: procrastinating, quitting, failure to launch, staying stuck in surface level drama.

This is why so many want to create, but don’t. And this is the most heartbreaking story of all:

Letting an unfounded fear boss us around and make us too timid to explore the creative fire within.

Facing the blank page is a metaphor for life.

Our life is the ultimate blank page.

Journaling Project

Become aware of how you feel when you are creating or learning something new.

Notice your thoughts, too. What do the inner voices say? How do these thoughts affect your feelings, and vice-versa? Write them down in your sketchbook or journal

These are the sorts of things I write about in my sketchbooks.

I invite you to make your own notes and observations. Draw, paint, photograph or collage what you can’t express with words.

If this sounds intimidating at all, it won’t by the end of this course! Or maybe even by the time you’ve finished this first week’s tutorials!

p.s. If you are creating something new, PLUS putting it out in the world for show or sale — then the vulnerability level goes up exponentially. And by that I mean: a LOT!

I’ve added this note in case that’s you: creating and selling your work, or creating and trying to make a decent living from your work.

Especially if you are “an emotional creature”. This is a love note for you.

Share your experience in the comments— use any of these questions as a jumping off place:

How do you experience learning something new?

How does vulnerability show up in your creative work?

What helps you move forward, even in the midst of fear?

Did you try the journaling suggestion? What did you learn?


Dreaming on Paper pretty graphicThis post is excerpted from session one of my creativity workshop: Dreaming on Paper: The Creative Sketchbook. The link will take you to the course description and outline.

You can see a list of all workshops here.

2 Responses to The Blank Page & Vulnerability

  1. Sonya April 5, 2016 at 8:38 pm #

    I have experienced too many times in my own life where the negative forces have won and nothing gets created, but it gives me hope to know that I am not alone in this, and as Lisa expressed that “we can learn to have compassion for the fear…”
    It’s also comforting to know that the fear will become less if I take those small steps towards facing my fears and not let it paralyze me any more.
    I need to take into my life how I experience the blank page in my sketchbook. I allow myself to play in my sketchbook without the expectation of perfection and self judgement, and I love it!!

  2. Michelle Logue March 30, 2016 at 4:04 pm #

    Facing the blank page no longer frightens me! It fills me with excitement, what colors will I be drawn to? What images and words will find their way to this page? And in the end if I’m not so excited about the product, just turn the page. Like life, embrace with a sense of infinite possibilities and if you don’t like the outcome, change your path. Thank you Lisa, for this metaphor for life!

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