The terror of the empty page is what they call it. Infinite options waiting to be shaped and formed. Dynamic whitespace, you might say. It’s as if the computer dumped a mound of blank white potential in front of me, and here I am with a potter’s wheel and a mind to make something. Only, I’m not sure I know quite how. It’s weird, really. There’s this drive, a focus, an impulse to create spurred on by the maddening chase music now playing at 2:43 AM in my room in Milwaukee, but I don’t know what to create. How can I? How can I make these words, these lifeless bits of ink and paper that are created as easily as I can drum my fingers upon the keyboard, into something with the depth and, dare I say, grit of the visions in my head? How do I mold it into a vase of my choice?
And then I realize, it’s not the description that makes hay for the writer. It’s not the carefully chosen metaphors or the sliding scale of thoughts laid out neatly for the reader. It’s the characters you’ve got to have. But making flesh into paper is nearly as hard as the reverse, and whether you’re drawing inspiration from the mad curmudgeons in your real life or the media personalities people put on and take off as needed, you still need to create something in the end. There is a face and a voice to be put to it, a personality and needs and desires. The writer’s block was never an issue with me, but knowing quite what to do and quite how is the trick, I think.
It’s like dancing in a darkened room, you know? The room of someone you don’t know all that well, and you’ve just been invited up for the first time and you’re waiting for them to come upstairs to show you where the bloody light switch is. And there’s all this junk around on the floor, a chair here and a stool there and a radio and a trunk and a glass bowl that’ll shatter if you even breathe on it. Somehow, you have to find the way between these things without falling over and breaking your face.
So you step to the left and you turn to the right, reach back two feet and grab hold of the dresser, spin in, turn about and tread on your partner’s toes, and you’re off and dancing in the night-black space! You step and then you turn, you whirl and you twist, always you’re dancing ‘round those barriers you don’t even know exist. And it really is a dance, because even though you can’t see anything around you, somehow you always know where to put your feet. There’s a right place to be, a right time to turn, a right step to take. There’s a right word to find, always is. The tip of a brush wafting down a canvas with the greatest care, barren landscapes bursting into bloom.
That’s what finding the right word is like. Turning backward, spinning, slipping but never quite falling, always yanking yourself out at the last moment. Searching for that one thought, maddeningly elusive though it be, that will perfectly describe the idea spinning in your head. Never settling for less, secure in the knowledge that the right word is out there, somewhere, buried in the back pages of some dusty dictionary. All you have to do is find it.
|"...you are my master and I LOVE you!"|