And pressure, of air in an empty room – early daylight, dim-overcast kind, kept outside by walls and draped windows.
Only light in my writing closet, this screen’s whiteness – it’s openness to be blackened, to be covered with thoughts and ideas – not like a beggar begging for it, but more like a bully pushing me back, putting me down, calling me names like gutless, and wordless, and fraud.
That’s what the blank page does – it offers both opportunity and then puts every negative thought imaginable into a writer’s conscious space, self-doubt, and self-loathing, the way a bully belittles someone with name-calling …
Here in the quiet – fending off that blank page bully, inner feelings of ‘not enough adequacy,’ but still – there is a place for these feelings and thoughts. Conversation with friends, with strangers, and with myself cannot get this job done.
It is this conversation on this page I need, just two of us – writer vs. page.
I don’t know if other writers feel this way. I expect many do.
We must write:
Whatever we can do, we should do.
Whatever we cannot do, must be put on this page – we must prove we can do it in prose, show we can do it with words, telling truth or painting fiction – there is no other way to say this, because we cannot be braggarts, though our characters can. We cannot reveal failings, failures, and pretenses, but our characters can. This is poignant for me as I struggle to resume what I can only describe as ‘my novel project.’ It’s not the most important thing I’ll ever do, but it is aching inside me like a growth that must be surgically excised. No, it’s not rocket surgery, it just feels that way.
Who is up to this task?
To make art few people will read, to create something dramatic and theatrical few people will see, to do it the way lovers spontaneously combust and combatants fight to their death – yes, this is my quest, to be a great fiction novelist.
Some days, sometimes weeks, I can barely look at it, and yet some days I can sit in awe of it, pulled into it and can hardly leave the keyboard for fear I’ll miss a thought or lose a thread by stepping away to put on warmer socks, pour coffee, or visit the toilet – each less than three paces away.
So there you have it, that is today’s effort – to fill this page with words, yet wondering and wanting to leave lots of white space for effect, as if designing a magazine advertisement for a stunning product.
This is the writer’s craving, and the result his craven-images to stir someone, the way you stir water with little hope of thickening it – because you can’t without adding ingredients which stick together, somewhat between the chemistry of baking and the physics of mixing = something thicker than water with a taste you’ve never known before, that girds loins, stiffens backbones and steels resolve.
So, isn’t that what every writer craves?
Some creation on the page – never created before, which will do two things for the reader:
What I write will cause readers to smile, think, and act because of what I wrote, that words I write here will endure – in print, and in minds
So, then, why is it so hard?
Someone who hears music in their head, if they know music, put on the page and play it on instruments – we then listen to their feelings, just as a painter imprints their joys and pains in paint on a wall, on a canvas, or whatever medium they spray and spill their thoughts.
Art – the music kind, the acting performance kind, and the painting-sculpture kind – these are creations of the mind played out in tangible ways by dancers, musicians, and artists; their beautiful work and actions have the power to impact our emotions. They please, or displease, or have no impact at all. Their successful exhibitions are copied, reproduced, and performed widely. Their failures are quickly forgotten by everyone except the performer, everyone except the artist.
So, this begs the question of whether writers feel the same way or have similar experiences.
I’ve gotten numb to silence. My audience grows, but is still small – because to reach a broad audience of minds with written words, distribution is critical. Getting published, in books and magazines, getting written about, and talked about is vital. I have plenty of unfinished work and grandiose hopes of publishing well and widely. I have finished work – some of it wrong-headed, most of it not. Some with more significant potential – in need of an editor’s scalpel, in need of a publisher to believe in me, to believe in it – or maybe I’ll independently publish. I might bypass steps, but I know I can’t bypass that critical ingredient.
In these words, I obscure the most important elements that are required. The first is to create something remarkable, original, and to do it with power. The second is confidence. Confidence in its value, trust in my talent, confidence that readers will like it, celebrate it, and spread the word.
I have a tough audience – not the hundreds or thousands who read what I publish - not the handful of people who call or write or speak to me with kind words of praise or support. The audience is made up, as it is for most writers I expect, of three groups – the living who know us, the dead who did, and those who don’t know us at all.
The dead. These are the close friends and family members (i.e., parents, siblings, friends so close they felt like siblings) who withheld their approval, who never praised the words or the work, or who criticized it. Perhaps ex-wives and ex-lovers should be included in this group too; they are still alive, but they withheld their words also. Is that because they didn’t believe in the value of me, or the amount of what I do, or did they know how much it mattered – and withheld it anyway, as a power tool.
The living. These are not the readers who comment. I mean the living friends, family, and near-family who sit on their hands, don’t call or write or comment. Imagine what it feels like to receive that kind of feedback – it might be in the form of critique, it might say “wow, that was great,” or “wow, that was a piece of crap – what were you thinking?”
What does silence say?
Silence says, “I don’t care.”, or “I couldn’t be bothered.”, or “I don’t want to support you.” or “I don’t love you.” I would love the prize and joy of publishing work that sells well and garners praise – every writer needs and wants that. Even if the work doesn’t warrant it, also if magic hasn’t been found yet – feedback from strangers, however critical is needed and wanted. I can never replace what is missing from those who ought to care, who ought to say something – who could do so much with their simple words. That power of silence, that power of absence of support, is the greatest weapon. It is used every day – by parents against children, by children against parents – and most certainly between partners in relationships of every kind (though the silence can hardly be qualified as an ingredient in partnership or spousal virtues).
There is no more significant weapon than the silence of someone who could speak, but doesn’t.