It finally occured to me that the problem with writing is not that there is nothing to write, but that there is too much to write. It is the absurdity of riches that causes the stoppage of progress, not the lack of material. It is as if we are a would be traveler presented with an atlas of the world and told to pick anywhere, any page, that we wish to go. We are a starving man dropped into the still forming Garden of Eden and given free range to endulge. There is too much selection to decide, so we stop, and do not decide.
What struck me next was the absurdity of that situation – who would choose not to travel or not to eat? And then, slowly, I realized that this comedy of abundance is expanded even further in the case of writing. With writing there is no wrong direction or wrong selection. We expend nothing but time in our efforts – time which will flow by whether we choose to take advantage of it or not. We do not even need to decide our final destination when we start, all we realy have to decide upon is to start, to take that first step. The next step may be in an entirely different direction. Unlike the travel who gets nowhere if he backtracks his steps, we will have still made progress. The word count will go up, the familiarity of the process will increase, and our comfort with method of putting one foot in front of the other will be settling into our bones. The habit will be emerging.
And, unlike that weary traveler who expends so much time and energy backtracking, we can go many directions at the same time. That traveler cannot go east and west at once, Time spent getting closer to Europe is in most ways time spent getting further away from Polynesia. But as writers we can do both. And we even have many paths to do both.
Since the world is of the writer’s own making, we can construct a path were all our destinations lie together. An historical comedy with dramatic overtones, no problem. A science fiction lyrical poem that echoes the characters of Pilgrim’s Progress, that is fine too. The atlas that is presented to us to make our travel selection is actually a mosaic that we can rearrange at will to create a world that holds our own destination. It may even be a empty book and a pencil. A open map to create a world that has never existed before.
So maybe we are back to the same problem – the problem of a blank sheet of paper, and over abundance of riches. You have been presented a brave new world, a open tableau to create whatever you want. Anything at all.
Where will you start? Where will I start?