Starting From A Blank Page

One day a student asked, “What is the most difficult part of painting?” The master answered, “The part of paper where nothing is painted is the most difficult.” – Painting Zen 

I’ve been having an existential crisis today.

After a few years of self-employment it’s become the regular marker of the start of summer: the day when my diary is suddenly empty. I hate it! When I’m not busy, I feel useless.

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 14.40.49Every year, I see the day looming and plan to launch something or other in an attempt to cover the gap. This time it was Metaphorum 2016 – a global online event for Clean Language enthusiasts, scheduled for 9 September.

Tickets have been selling well for ten days now, so I’m feeling a bit better than in previous years.

And it turns out there’s another connection between my annual “existential crisis day” and the Metaphorum. It’s captured by the quote above, which I found on

The Metaphorum’s structure will be loosely based on Open Space Technology, which means that it starts with a (metaphorical) blank sheet of paper… not unlike the blank page in my diary.

And, as the quote makes clear, that can be a scary place to be.

What’s going to happen? I don’t know. Who’s going to tell me what to do? Nobody.

At first it seemed the only sensible question to ask myself – and Metaphorum attendees – was a Clean Language one, “What would you like to have happen?” But then I realised, thanks to friends, that there’s more to it than that.

The blank page has a context. It has a “before” and an “after”. And I’m not, in fact, alone with it.

So now I’m wondering, “Who else is with me here, facing this blank sheet of paper? What might they like to co-create?”

  • Thanks to Silke Gebauer, Nadja Schnetzler and others for the inspiration.

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