Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.

Gene Fowler

       Nothing. Her desk, a disarray of blue, white, and purple papers, of black, pink, and yellow pens, sat before her. Her keyboard – useless, useless thing – sat in her lap. And she sat, stuck, her mind hopelessly fixated on the vast, all encompassing nothing of her inspiration. The empty, glaring white page on the screen in front of her seemed a fitting image of nothing, she thought. Not that such an image was helpful. 

       She needed to write. She glanced at the blue, hard-backed notepad that sat open on her desk. Read Ch. 7 Lit due tomorrow, crossed off. Read Ch. 5 Ancient History due Fri, crossed off. Do probs. 3, 5, 7-18 Chem. due Thurs., crossed off. Write story due tomorrow. Nothing. 

       Why did her mind do this to her? This was a story, after all. It wasn’t an essay with an annoying prompt. It wasn’t a paper or a final exam. It was a story. She liked writing stories… didn’t she? Yet whenever she needed to write, whatever she needed to write, it always turned out the same. She would sit down, she would place the keyboard in her lap, she would settle her fingers – f, d, s, a, j, k, l, ; – on the keys… and her mind would transform into a maddening, unyielding barrier of nothing. It was amazing what a real, unarguable impassable barrier nothing could be. There had to be a metaphor there somewhere….

       But that was off the topic. She needed to write.

       She shifted positions and let her head fall backward to pin her dark brown hair against the molded blue plastic of the chair back. Her grayish-blue eyes scanned the ceiling above her. The plaster poked down from the surface like tiny stalactites in a cave. Or like an upside-down mountain range, an aerial view of a vast plaster wilderness. Across the endless expanse of her ceiling stretched a trackless waste of miniature mountains, a boundless no-man’s land where daring adventurers braved rock and dust, thirst, sun, and cold on heroic quests to find…

       Nothing. This was accomplishing nothing. She needed to write.

       She sat up. F, d, s, a, j, k, l, ; – she watched the tips of her long, slim fingers settle easily into their places. She gazed for a moment at their motionlessness, then began to type.

       I once thought I knew…

       She stopped. What? Knew what? There was a story in those words. There was change and growth in those words. And disappointment, too, probably disappointment. Or tragedy, even. Those words could hold tragedy. Those words carried the potential for all the emotion and action she could possibly need for a story. But what story? She began typing again.

       I once thought I knew what it meant to live.

       That would be something to know. Actually, at the beginning it would be something to not know. Or think you knew. Or know wrong. So what had this person thought it meant to live? And how had that meaning – whatever it was – proved a disappointment? What had replaced it, if anything?

       She paused, then, shaking her head so her dark brown hair swished back and forth, broke into a self-mocking chuckle. What did she have to say abut the meaning of life that she was going to formulate into her short story due tomorrow? She smiled, still shaking her head. She didn’t know. Nothing.

       Tap, tapi-tap tap. Tap tapi-tap tap. She drummed her fingers lightly against the keys – j-jk-j, j, j-jk-j, j – as she thought. She began to type again.

       It didn’t matter. Maybe, maybe she could convince herself that it didn’t matter. It did. But somehow she would convince herself that that didn’t matter, either.

       Another start – something didn’t matter. What didn’t matter? Or as the case really seemed to stand, what did matter? Something had happened here. Something that mattered. Something that someone wanted to believe didn’t matter. Something that someone wanted to avoid.

       But who and what?

       She looked at the clock at the bottom of her computer screen. No time to figure it out. So nothing. At least for now.

       She rested her elbows on the papers on her desk and pressed her slim, cold fingers against her cheeks and eyes. Clouds and mist. It was all like clouds and mist. She could see the form she needed, clear, defined like those clouds that on a sunny day looked solid enough to walk on. She could see the thought built on thought, image built on image, sentence on sentence, paragraph on paragraph. She could see them all connected, woven into a unified whole. But right now all she had was the vision-obscuring vaporous form of thought, image, word, and sentence that she knew would condense from the maddening mist of formlessness and into the sweet dew of actual writing if only they had something, something on which to form.

       Okay, so no they wouldn’t. But that wasn’t the point.

       She still had nothing. She didn’t think she could have a more solid, vividly imagined nothing, but it’s very solidity was what prevented her from breaking through it, and it wasn’t solid anyway, because it was only imagined, and the whole process of imagining it simply distracted her from her task – SHE NEEDED TO WRITE.

       She needed to write. For a moment she stared, unseeing, at the keyboard in her lap, then set her fingers – f, d, s, a, j, k, l, ; – to their keys once again.


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