AND Magazine Menu

Something from Nothing

Art cannot be created in a vacuum, but perhaps it can be created from the vacuum?

Creating out of a Void

Writer's Block

Writer's block, a common problem encountered by writers. | Photo: | Ideas, Writing, Inspiration,

Creating out of a Void



[Comments] As I sat down to write my monthly articles this week, I ran across a little problem: Try as I might, no article topics came to mind. Plenty of stuff happened, lots of plays read, and some interesting stories came out of all my daily activities--but not really anything I felt compelled to write about. Unlike in months past, I experienced no great insights, no dramatic transformations, no brilliant fireworks et al., just existence.

Uh oh.

At some point in their lives, every writer comes to a point that normal people call burnout. We more "creative types" (though it applies to everyone) say that we have writer's block, or a horrible lack of inspiration, or blame ethereal and otherworldly creatures for our malady. Whatever we choose to call it, it can be troubling--especially when it is our job to come up with something interesting to say. For the more neurotic of us, there are books and books written on this topic--what the lack of inspiration is, where it comes from, and what to do when it decides to show its ugly face. Unfortunately, those much-needed pearls of wisdom are never around when we need them most. Some art forms you can just will to happen: Dance, for example, is very much mind over matter, as they say. But though you can force your foot to pointe if it thinks it is too tired, your mind cannot be forced to produce ideas. It must be coaxed, cajoled, and pampered into being nice when it is uncooperative. Unfortunately, bullying does not help at all, and this time, Time was not my friend. So, what does a writer do in these situations?

After some struggle and lots of staring at my empty computer screen (no matter how much we would like to believe otherwise, words do not appear of their own accord) I came up with an answer. Write about not being able to write, of course. Art comes from life--so does anything creative, really. So if this is your life, this is what you write about. (So I told myself).

There's a tired old saying that art cannot be created in a vacuum. For the majority of my years on stage, I tended to believe that that's true. But my experience this month has made me think of a twist on that idea: of course art cannot be created in a vacuum, but perhaps it can be created from the vacuum? Maybe. Maybe not, too. At least something interesting might come from it. This requires some more thought, and before I have thoughts I have to figure out which thoughts to have. Once I have them, I might write about it next month. We'll see what will happen.

Lesson learned, whether I write about it or not. There is always something to write about, even when you think you've got nothing; and the challenge at that point is to turn your "nothing" into something exciting and witty enough for people to actually want to read it. Not that I'm saying I'm exciting and witty, but you know.

I suppose another lesson that could be drawn from my writerly issues is this: Never give up.

Shawn Palmer

Shawn Palmer, : Shawn Palmer, a Magna Cum Laude graduate from Connecticut College, is an actor, writer, and singer. While at school she was a frequent soloist with the Connecticut College Orchestra and understudied several roles with the Connecticut Lyric Opera. She also studied away at the British American Drama Academy during her junior year. Acting credits include Catherine (Proof) and Lucia (Mad Forest). In college she worked as a writing tutor, and her play Amontillado (based on Edgar Allan Poe's short... (more...)