I don’t know what to write. I spluttered out a few meagre sentences that fizzled before they could even hit a period. And as I stared at the blank screen, bereft, I recalled observing this struggle in my 5th grade students as they sat “brainstorming” something to write in class. It’s all right, I would tell them, this is something every writer experiences. There’s even a name for it: writer’s block! Just write down anything that comes to you, the first thing that comes to mind, and keep going with it. You can always go back and edit it or start something new.
And perhaps there is some smidgen of wisdom in those encouragements, even though all I’m really doing is trying to force them to write because I need something to quantify, something to show, something to assess. The wisdom being that we can’t wait for genius divine inspiration to strike – we have to just put it out there, now, while we have the chance, however imperfect and trivial it ultimately may be, or else we risk saying nothing at all, and holding it in, and losing an opportunity to better develop our capability to articulate what is within and to be understood. These opportunities seem like they should be legion, yet they really are quite rare. There is always something demanding our immediate time and shallow attention. Errands, family, TV, Facebook, email, video games, news, books. Something for us to become immersed in, for us to consume. For us to not be lonely, bored, depressed. For us not to confront the dire reality of our own solitary existence.
To create something out of nothing is indeed tough work. It demands humility. It demands that I lay down my pretensions and measure my distance from my own self and from others and step forward into the light of temporary understanding, thus opening myself to misunderstanding and belittlement. But beyond this threshold of fear lies love. An acceptance of my frail attempts to formally communicate myself. An acceptance of my humanity, however proud, however blind, however imperfectly stated. An acceptance that even though I don’t really know quite what to say, or how to say it, somehow I’ve still arrived at a better shore than the one I left but a moment before. And can now go to sleep feeling better relieved, slightly more whole, like I’ve taken one small step towards re-finding myself in the dark empty night, renewing the self that had been sleeping, hidden in the everyday veil of my movements. Enough. I think I’ve found something to write about.