Inside your head is a space that waits to be filled with light. Or darkness. The rushing wind and the clatter of leaves before a storm. The clang of swords and shouts of frightened men battling for their lives. The boom and cough of ocean waves and the salt spray upon your lips.
When the space is empty, you despair. Your mind chases itself, a hamster on a wheel, racing frantically toward nothing. And the Nothing swallows your elation, blows a noxious fog of desperation over the rest of your thoughts, leaving you desolate.
It comes out in anger, in tears. The people around you tiptoe; don’t upset her, they whisper. Don’t ask her about the book, they caution. They don’t want you to blow. Sometimes they don’t know what’s wrong and they tell you to cheer up, or get a grip on yourself. But you have one, an achingly tight grip, squeezing your brain until the last drop of inspiration hovers at the very edge before it falls…
…onto an empty page.
Can you push out the drop? Can you make yourself birth a masterpiece? The answer has eluded greater minds than yours. A walk in the snow, you think. Never mind the darkness, the night. No one will be out so it will be nice and quiet and you can think. That will engage those rusty gears. So you pull on boots, wrap yourself in a scarf and mittens, button your coat and make your way outside.
The snow crunches beneath your feet. Somewhere you heard that the sound it makes will tell you how cold it is; is it higher when it’s colder, or lower? You can’t remember so you keep going. You hear an occasional car grinding by, but it is far away. You can’t see it and it’s not loud enough to muffle the sound of your footsteps. It’s very quiet, and even though you are surrounded by houses and people, you feel completely alone.
It’s so pretty, and then the clouds bellied low over the landscape unleash another scattering of flakes. The snow whispers as it falls. It has a sound, but you didn’t know that before. You stop and listen and the flakes fall gently on your upturned face. Like the child you still are deep inside, you open your mouth and let them melt on your tongue and you’re instantly transported to your backyard, and the first snowfall of the season. Your mother bundled you up and smiled into your eager face before she turned you out into the icy wonderland. “Don’t stay out too long,” she cautioned.
Good advice. The cold is beginning to seep through your mittens. Strange that you didn’t notice back then. Now you feel the slight damp and a numbness settling into your feet. You should turn back, but the snow is so pretty, like glitter falling from the sky and sparkling in the streetlight. You stand and watch for a moment more.
The growl of a snowplow begins to swell behind you, and the moment is broken. In your mind, in the space, is the image of the glittering snow hurtling inexorably down through the night, catching the light and shedding it just as quickly as it leaves the cone of the streetlight’s glow. You take it with you and as your chilled fingers fumble with your buttons and you drop your wet boots on the mat by the door, it remains along with the whispered hiss of the snow. Your cocoa steams but you are far away.
How was your walk? You don’t answer; you’re deep in the image. Ah, they say. She’s musing. Don’t bother her. She’s gearing up. And you are. The rusty machine begins to creak and groan, and starts to turn. Soon you approach the page and the cocoa sits cooling, forgotten as your tingling fingers tap furiously on the keys, forgetting your earlier anguish, chasing the image through the space in your mind, filling it. It flows up and out and there is more to follow. It has begun again.
Yes, you can push it. And you must, if you are to write.