The Great Weight of Blankness

Originally posted to Concerning Fiction on blogger, 03/09/2015

Today the campus I work at is being visited by Neil Gaiman. I tried thinking about all the things I could scribble out on a blank Q&A form for him. Thankfully no one will get to stand up awkwardly and ask questions into a microphone. This is always the part of any symposium where I try to see if I can shove myself completely inside my seat in the auditorium.

The only questions I could up with were either your generic “how do I get famous writing?” questions or “who is your favorite Game of Thrones character?” I’ve decided I’ll go with the latter.

This is because I’m sure he and people in his position get the first question all the time. Also, I’m fairly certain the answer is: Write.

That stings. Straight and deep. To get famous and write for a living I have to start by writing. Reading King’s On Writing says as much. His thoughts on life while up to his elbows in maggots at a dry cleaner could sober anyone up to that. If you want to write you have to start by actually writing.

And I have been writing–just not all on the novel… okay, or even the same project consistently.

The adventure novel project is at 17,775 words (nearly halfway through) and it is coming easily when I write on it. The problem is that I haven’t been writing on it very much. Between grad school, the house, work, and video game project I barely sleep a full night much less complete anything.

Every time I think, “This will be a short project,” I end up taking months to complete it. Endless email chains, phone calls, and planning docs till I set it aside to start the next project. I know many other creatives probably do the same thing. We just see their accomplishments and think they only ever worked on that product alone. All the same, at the end of the day I can’t help but stay at the blank page I’ve written myself to, sigh, and put it to the side.

Life is some much more simple when I’m running or drywalling. I only have to do to do X number of miles or X amount of wall left to cover. When I’m writing I get so wrapped up in the end product and the big picture that just getting a few words takes hours.

In the blank places between my thoughts, I find myself contemplating GoT’s–that’s probably why I want to ask Neil which character he likes. My wife and I just finished watching season four over our snow (read as ICE) day. Sometimes I turn my thoughts to what will happen next.

Will Lord Baelish swoop in and save the throne after everyone else is dead? Will Arya become a legendary swords lady? How will dragons play out in the series if they are so wild? The questions just run out my ears.

That’s when it hits me the hardest. When I find myself so completely consumed by a work that I spend my spare blank time mauling it over. That is so powerful. That is what makes good writing good! That’s what I want to do–I want people to feel, think, and experience the thoughts I have had.

I feel so separated from the world. It’s like a heavy blanket of Otherness hangs between everyone and me. We never really touch (at least not in a meaningful way). Then I write something. They read it and they get it. Like notes passed between jail cells. I have stories inside myself that want to be shared.

But not today! Today I will write! I will tear a little off the blanket, pass it to my neighbor, and bask in the knowledge that a little bit of me transcended the little blank place between us.


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