Einstein is supposed to have said, “Just as darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of God.” Interesting analogy, especially when we remember that in the Old Testament God’s first act of creation is the introduction of light into the dark and shapeless void that was the universe. The difference between the blank page and the shapeless void is only that of color and dimension. First there is always nothing. And then into this nothing there comes a word, and the writer sees that it is good. The page does not create the word, it merely receives it. Likewise, the blank page has nothing to say one way or another about which words are written on it. The blank page is as pristinely indifferent to language, to ideas, to stories, as the wood from which it was pounded. And yet it is this very indifference that makes it the perfect platform for creation.
Writer’s block can look like indifference: the writer is stripped of interest, and, indifferent to her creations, can find no words to continue them. But writer’s block is really fear of indifference and of the freedom it bestows. Writer’s block is the recognition that anything is permissible, that the blank page provides no guidelines whatsoever, that nothing at all is inherently good or bad—all creation is equal except within the eyes of the creator.
If a serpent were to visit me at my desk, he would no doubt whisper about perfection. He would whisper that all creation cannot be equal, for look at the bestseller list. Look at the facts! And as he whispered, my attention might move from the light within me toward the darkness, as if I might try to understand darkness; solve it; defeat it. In this way, the serpent makes an enemy of a friend, that which in truth waits without judgment for the first spark of interest.
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