Behind the Pages: On being an Empty Page Ninja



“I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.”

Jack Kerouac


Monday, September 17, 2012

In my ever-evolving journaling practice, I am discovering the power of the Empty page.  I  like to differentiate between a blank page and an empty page.


A blank page, can be daunting.  A blank page is demanding; it uses obnoxious tones or bellows.  Quite frankly, it can be a bit of a bully.  And bullies require push back and fighting skills.  Which some days, I just don’t have…

 {origami paper, acrylic paint, 2×2 postal pix, watercolor, graphite, Sharpie pen fine}

But an empty page says, “Hey there, your mind looks full.  Why don’t you put those words and ideas over here.  In this box.  On this pretty paper.”


{tissue paper, acrylic paint, graphite, 4×4 postal pix}

and, “Look at all that brilliance; this corner has been waiting for just that very thought.”  An empty page is a good friend who knows exactly what you need.

In my practice, I set aside a day, every 7 to 10 days, to create empty pages.  Safe places to tuck words, images and ephemera.  Empty pages, by my definition, are pages that are started.  Pages with soft edges that don’t screech with blankness, but instead with a calm voice, point the way to expression and life.

I like to create more pages than I think I’ll need, so that I don’t worry about space or rationing.  For me, that’s about 6 – 10 double page spreads in one session.  And then, I put away most of the supplies.  The magazine pages and the paints, tuck away and I settle into a quieter method.  At hand, I keep a pen, a glue stick, a sharpie, something that writes in white and my ever-present watercolors.  With prepped “empty pages” in my bag, I’m free to carry only a glue stick and a pen or two. 

[If I’m traveling, I’ll add Inktense pencils and a water brush.]   In that simple place and pace, I’m able to put my energy into capturing rather than creating from scratch.


{paper tape, magazine cutout, 2×2 postal pix, Inktense pencil}

 Once I’ve made a handful of pages, I even free myself from writing things down in order.  I just find the empty space that matches what I have to say…or glue, or sketch.

One of the things I talk about extensively in workshop is the fact that my journals are not art journals.  The pages aren’t planned with emphasis on the final product.  They are a vital part of how I process life.  They are part of my spiritual practice and they ultimately inform my art, as I don’t differentiate between the two.  I write lists, draw, glue things down and capture thoughts.  In the pages and with a camera, I am in my life and listening to the Holy Spirit.
Let Go

{paper tape, white Jelly Roll pen, ink pad, tissue paper, acrylic paint, magazine cut out, stamps, graphite}

Empty pages create space and safety which ultimately allow me to be victorious over the Blank Page Bully.  Empty pages make my practice more contemplative and less like a battle.  Well, maybe still a battle, but one where I’m a ninja not a stormtrooper.  Here’s to climbing over fears, worries and stalls, one empty page at a time.

By | 2016-10-19T14:20:33+00:00 September 17th, 2012|Art in the Crevices, Behind the Pages, Journals|8 Comments

About the Author:

I create containers for words and paint and I fill them. I craft safe, sacred spaces for people to wrestle, create, heal and shout from the mountain tops.
And I teach people to do all of these things for themselves.

  • But an empty page says, “Hey there, your mind looks full. Why don’t you put those words and ideas over here. In this box. On this pretty paper.” <—- I love your perspective on empty pages vs. blank pages. You have totally inspired me once again!!! Setting aside a longer period of time to do a few spreads (to be starters for later) is now calling to me. Thank you for sharing your process. xoxo

  • Jennifer, I’m delighted to return the inspiration favor. Not only are your abstracts a delight, but seeing you in action is magical!

  • Becky

    My heart and my eyes just filled as I read through this. So ready to be back in the process. Started reading through Artist’s Way again this weekend and am on day two of morning pages (in earnest). It has been unsettling to realize that the good in life can distract me almost as much as the bad derails me.

  • Becky, As usual, pages lead to revelation. “…the good in life can distract me almost as much as the bad derails me.” So simple. So deep. So true. Love you friend!

  • Liz

    “Once I’ve made a handful of pages, I even free myself from writing things down in order. I just find the empty space that matches what I have to say…or glue, or sketch.” In addition to blank vs. empty, I struggle with the compulsion to keep events, thoughts, emotions linear. I’ve been working on that, and it’s another place that requires a conscious effort (and I do mean effort) to let go. Something else: “Finding an empty space that matches…” then exercising my choice to move into that space, wherever it is, is a metaphor for how I want my life to be. I want to find the place that matches me and step in, but I can’t seem to overcome whatever obstacles (actual limitations or ones I’ve made in my head) and insert myself. In my pages, it’s all up to me. I have one page that says “Sometimes it really does get to be all about you.” Thank you for sharing, Betsy.

    • Liz, Overcoming starts with realizing and recognizing. Just knowing what spaces are attractive to you is a great start. And understanding that you’re bound by sequence today, with a little grace in the mix, could have you embracing circles rather than lines tomorrow.


  • Hope Naomi

    …you are *definitely* a ninja 🙂

  • Hope Naomi

    …you are *definitely* a ninja 🙂