The Blank Page
Although I’ve never been a big Bruce Springsteen fan, I thought his Broadway show #SpringsteenBroadway on @Netflix was eloquent. The intimate reflections on his family, hometown, and career, woven together with familiar music, created a powerful performance.
I think it was the lead-in to “Thunder Road” when Springsteen said that one of the things he misses about getting older is “the beauty of the blank page” with its “promises, possibilities, mysteries, and adventures.” The blank page, “daring you to write on it” when you’re young.
I still think of my life as a blank page. The chapters before have determined some, but by no means all of what is left to write. In fact, the page is surprisingly blank. I did not expect retirement and my new work as a coach to offer so many “promises, possibilities, mysteries and adventures.” I am keenly aware that my time left is finite. Yet this blank page is daring me to write something as new and exciting as the page that seemed limitless in my youth.
Thinking about the blank page more literally, writing has become one of the joys of this stage in my life. As I build my audience of leaders, colleagues, clients, and friends, I realize that I write primarily for myself. The process of writing helps me clarify my thinking. What I share in a blog post is a moment in time from an ongoing process of reflection. I try to convey a leadership lesson, but it is often left to the reader to discern. And I actually can’t think of anything more important to leadership development than being open to ideas that don’t overtly teach leadership but are derived from a wide range of experiences. As my regular readers know, the arts, my family, and the natural landscape are regular sources of inspiration.
In his December 4, 2018 post, “Why?,” @Inside Higher Ed blogger Matt Reed @deandad shared a similar observation., “… part of the point of writing is to see where ideas go. Sometimes they go where I thought they would, but sometimes they wander off. When an idea leads somewhere I didn’t expect, I’ve learned something.”
The shadow side of the blank page is dread. How will I fill the rest of my life so that it as rewarding as the first part? What will I write and will it clearly communicate what I am thinking? Perhaps the biggest difference between being young and now is that there is less time to rewrite. Choices seem to matter more. Even so, it’s an opportunity to relish.