Negative Space

There it is again. I’m sitting down on my old leaf-print couch, long since faded from it’s original golden sheen into a puffy, faded Estevez. My computer is open on my lap, and Dr. Who is blaring from the Television while my girlfriend encircles my arm with hers, and lays her head down on my shoulder.

The page on my browser is open to a blank WordPress post, still waiting to be written. I told myself in between bites of a week old orange and leftover chicken pasta that I’d write something when I got home, that I’d change my life, that I’d start drawing again, that I’d work out tomorrow. The promises, or lies, you tell yourself when your mind is fresh with the midday sun and new ideas. But tonight, as the late evening sky light draws blue lines inbetween the shades, it is here again. Staring out at me from the empty whiteness. The fear.

The fear is not a monster, not something you could call “writer’s block,” if such a thing even exists. It is the blank space left in a half written story scribbled on a wrinkled sheet of loose-leaf, left crumpled in a dusty attic box, the negative space of an unfinished drawing, an empty notebook meant for ideas, but now gathering dust. There is nothing so comforting or terrifying, this space. It is all that exists in your imagination, all that is wonderful that could be, and all that is terrible you might write. It holds enormous possibility, like the the dreams before sleep, but it beckons you to do something about it. It says, “put up or shut up.”

The slats between the shades now leak in the dark, and I lay on the bed letting my mind wander off to sleep. I’ve never thought much of interpreting dreams. Mine are always a jumble of strange nonsense, like I’m sure most people. I like best the dreams right before sleep, when you can almost touch Neverland. They’re more like daydreams than anything. In those moments before sleep, I build worlds. I lay in bed tonight, and I daydream of my new job at the University, a cashier in the bursar’s office. As I close my eyes, I hear myself counting bills. I hear the slip, slip, slip, out of my hands, one by one, as I methodically count away the seconds of my life. No thought, no dreams, just a one-two-three count forward, forever.

Sometimes I stare at the white space for too long. I won’t pretend I don’t revel in the warm thoughts of possibility. But all that promise eventually fades if I don’t fill that space with something. It turns to a gut wrenching fear. A cascade of doubts– what if I write is too serious, isn’t funny, doesn’t say something meaningful. What if I write something really awful? What if the next thing I write isn’t good? I feel the weight of my abandoned, half written pages, and now other pages, heavy with black words and colorful drawings, scrawled by others I’ve never met, will never meet, in person nor skill.

I lay in bed, fully awake. Maybe tomorrow, I say to the walls. Maybe never, they echo back.

Whoo-boy. That was a bit depressing! Not to mention melodramatic. But only because I ended the story early. Hope you enjoyed!

— Allen

P.S. This post was inspired by Amber at Quill Takes Flight, and her post “The Most Important Thing.”

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2 thoughts on “Negative Space

  1. I’m with you on those twilight moments of consciousness before sleep. That’s my pondering time, the time in which I plot my future, what I’ll write, what I’ll do, what I’ll create, what I have to do during the week. It’s a powerful time. In the physical sense it’s a null time because nothing actually happens – there is nothing concrete about what you conceive in this time – but in another way it’s a time of unquantifiable productivity because it is the time in which you are unmolested by the white noise of surrounding activity, free to foster the potential for things to actually happen. It is the time in which you create possibility, that which is, by its very nature, inexhaustible.

  2. Aw man, leave it to me to take a hiatus from WordPress at this moment. I apologize. Thank you for the shout out and this piece was awesome. It’s quite fitting, as I look at the setting sun wondering why I didn’t write anything earlier today and whether or not I still have the time…

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