Writers create stories, lives, people, settings, worlds, from nothing. From blank pages, empty screens, from inside the grayest gray matter, something is created. Something from nothing.
“One must have a mind of winter” as Wallace Stevens wrote in “The Snowman.” “For the listener, who listens in the snow,/And, nothing himself, beholds/The nothing that is not there, and the nothing that is.“
It’s cold and snowy and quiet and there is a whole lot of nothing.
We write from nothing. There is certainly a “nothing that is not there” and as you write it becomes “the nothing that is” there. What you say is as important as what you don’t say. We carve out the spaces for our readers to fill in their truths about our characters, about what his actions mean, what the story is really about. There are some truths that all readers glean from a book: basic plot, characters—all of the whos, whats, whens, and wheres. But the whys are where the readers take over. Motivations are subjective.
I am working, struggling through a chunk of the book I’m writing. I can’t decide how much to tell you and how much to show you. I struggle with this in real life too…how much do I say.
I ran into an old friend a few weeks ago and talked to him the way I talk to everyone—without saying too much, without revealing the whole truth, the details, the darkness (the way I write to you some times.) He called bullshit on me and wanted me to fess up…I wanted to but we were in mixed company. I was happy that someone saw into me, saw through the me that you usually see. I wanted to spill it all. I want to spill it all to you too, believe me. But there's something about the nature of what isn’t there, what isn’t said, that I love and cling to. I am not that easy? Maybe that’s it…that I want my readers and friends to earn it a little more. If you aren’t paying attention, if you don’t know me, you won’t see it, you'll miss it. The big reveal means that the show is over.
My life and my work are getting messy. Imagine, the mess that isn’t there and the mess that is.