For as far back as I can remember, I always saw a blank piece of paper as a challenge. It sits there, asking/ challenging / demanding that I put words on it. In a box I still have marble notebooks -- remember them? -- from elementary school that were never completely filled with classwork; when the school year ended, the pages with math exercises or spelling words were torn out, leaving me with any number of blank pages. The earliest ones include adventures of the Elmont Junior Detectives, my homegrown version of the Hardy Boys starring my friends and me.
Writing was combined with my feeble attempts at being a comics artist in more notebooks, as I composed single-panel gags starring Penelope Jones and his friends as well as comic strip-style adventures of Superduck (who was not a duck), Secret Agent George P. Wombat, and Johnny Applepix.
Once I had taught myself to type (45 wpm with four fingers!), blank sheets of typing paper joined the notebook pages as invitations for me to write. The dozens of stories I wrote as Hobart Pumpernickel during my high school years is testimony to that, along with pieces for the school literary magazine, The Muse, and columns for the newspaper, The Oracle.
The Hobart stories continued into my first couple of years at Hofstra, along with numerous issues of The Purple Moose, a "newspaper" published for the staff of the yearbook, and some novellas that featured doppelgangers of myself and my friends.
At the same time, I was writing countless letters of comment to the editors at DC and Marvel, some 135 of which were published in the comic books. It was all those letters that were the first step towards my career in comics and getting paid for my writing.
These days, I do virtually all my writing on the computer, but I have to admit that I don't feel the same way about an empty screen as I do about a blank sheet of paper. It lacks that "personal touch."
I still put pen to paper during my CTY writing classes; there are a few of the assignments that I will do as the kids do them. There's also the pad on the clipboard that I kept in the dorm room; more than a few nights found me sitting on the couch or outside on a bench, filling the pages with pieces of stories. A couple of them are finished, others are substantial chunks with notes of how I intend to proceed, but some are no more than a few sentences.
Do I think I will finish them, along with expanding on all the ideas that I've jotted down and stuffed into folders in my desk? Of course... as long as there is blank paper and a way to get words on it.
After all, I'm a writer.