A blank page.
Every Black Friday, I wake up early to write. It’s tradition for me now. Here are some of the articles I have written on Black Friday morning:
- 35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget
- Holiday Shopping. We Can Do Better.
- All the Things You Don’t Need for a Perfect Holiday
Sitting down to write on Black Friday is now one of my favorite holiday traditions.
I never begin the day with an agenda and I have no predetermined topic in mind. Yesterday was Thanksgiving in America—a day for family and gratitude. The juxtaposition of Thanksgiving on Thursday and Black Friday immediately following speaks volumes about our culture. And I try to let the morning quietly speak to me.
So here I sit, with nothing but a blank page in front of me.
My writing tradition stems from my previous ritual of getting up early on Black Friday for shopping. I used to thoroughly enjoy the hunt—thumbing through Black Friday ads on Thanksgiving morning, mapping out stores and deals later that evening. I don’t ever recall getting up early on Black Friday to purchase Christmas gifts for loved ones, only to rush out and purchase something for myself—a television, a computer, a video game system. I had a plan, something I thought I wanted, and an alarm clock to wake me up.
I discovered minimalism in May of 2008. And over the course of the last nine years, my view on Black Friday has changed significantly. Not that purchasing discounted gifts for others is wrong—I’m certainly not against the entire notion of gift giving.
But Black Friday has begun to represent something else in our society. It is now a celebration of unbridled consumerism. Only in America do we wait in line and push past others for sale items one day after giving thanks for everything we already have.
And the things we buy on Black Friday are, almost by definition, things we don’t need. To make matters worse, the cultural expectation of spending during the holiday season is negatively impacting us in significant ways—24% of holiday shoppers say they overspent their holiday budget last year and 27% admit to not making a budget at all.
With that as the backdrop, quietly reflecting and taking time to write on Black Friday has become my ritual. If I can wake up early just to rush out for the purpose of buying something I don’t need, certainly I can wake up early to create something good to bring into the world.
If I can wake up early to consume, surely I can wake up early to create.
And so now, in the quiet hours of the morning while the rest of my family sleeps, I sit here with a cup of coffee staring at a blank computer screen.
An empty page.
An empty canvas on which I can write or create anything I desire.
And on this empty page, I can’t help but notice a metaphor for life.
Many, you see, will rush out this weekend to accumulate more and more physical possessions, filling their lives and their homes with more and more stuff. They will spend time and energy and money to accumulate things they don’t need. In so doing, they will write on the pages of their lives—a larger television, a new Amazon Echo, that stand-up mixer they always wanted, or the newest Barbie Dreamhouse for their child.
But me? I kinda like having a blank page in front of me.
Because a blank page represents possibility. A blank page allows me to write anything I want on it.
For this one day, it means I can cook pancakes for my kids when they wake up, or I can enjoy a cup of coffee with my wife. Because I am not rushing out to buy whatever product my local retailer has decided to discount today, I have time to write, create, and do work that I love. This afternoon, I may read a book or go hiking with my family after warm turkey sandwiches for lunch.
And those are just the opportunities that come to my mind. Who knows what my kids will decide would be fun for us to do today?
But no matter what they choose, I’ll be ready.
Because my Black Friday is an empty page and I can write anything I want on it.
This is what happens when we reject the empty notion of excessive consumerism: Our lives fall back under our own control. We get to write our own story.
We are freed to pursue fulfillment and meaning and happiness wherever we choose.