Derek Sivers

Why wreck a blank canvas?


At the last apartment I rented, everything was white on white when I arrived. White walls, counters, table, furniture, and carpet.

So I took it one step further, bought five blank canvases, and hung them around the apartment. Especially one big one, right at the entrance.

Visitors would get upset, saying, “You’ve got to put something there! You can’t just leave it blank! It needs color!”

I’d say, “Good point. Like what. What do you imagine?”

They’d say, “Y’know, like some bold splashes of dark red, but not too heavy. Something with clean lines.”

I’d say, “Hmm.... I’m not sure what you mean. Can you describe it more?”

They’d stare at the blank canvas a bit, and go into more detail about what should be on it.

Eventually I’d say, “Nah. Not going to do it.”

“Why not?!?”

“The reason I love the blank canvas is because it makes everyone daydream. The process of imagining what should be there is much more fun than having something there already. There have been a hundred paintings imagined onto that canvas. It’s got unlimited potential. It’d be a shame to wreck that with a bunch of paint.”

The blank page starts with unlimited potential. But each word you add reduces its possibilities.

Same thing with that business idea you’ve had forever.

Or that beautiful person you haven’t spoken with.

So maybe you should just leave them in your imagination, where they’re at their best.

blank canvas