A whole slew of words about how having nothing to write about really means that i probably have something to write about
I am trying to think of something to write about.
I have nothing.
When I have nothing to write about, there is, paradoxically, something that I can write about: having nothing to write about.
Whenever I write about having nothing to write about, there is, sooner or later, something to write about besides having nothing to write about.
John McPhee, who many regard as one of the finest non-fiction writers ever, had a great piece of advice about writing. It went something like this:
Start a letter to your mom. It might begin something like this:
I’m trying to write a story, and it’s just horrible. I’m so incredibly blocked. It’s about this bear. I saw this bear while I was on vacation, and it reminded me of the time you took me to the zoo when I was eight years old. It was the first time that I’d seen animals in captivity, and it reminded me of...
Keep writing about the bear. And that’s it you’re getting someplace.
I’d actually modify McPhee’s piece of advice to reflect what usually happens when I run into trouble.
Again, I have absolutely nothing to write about. Forget about a bear. There’s nothing. Nothing at all.
So okay..what do you do when you have nothing to write about?
Start writing about having nothing to write about, that’s what. You'll stumble onto something, or something will come your way.
So...as I said, at this moment, I have nothing to write about.
Just now, someone asked me if I play video games. No, I said, not the ones that are out today. The reason I don’t do this is because they’re all so damn complicated. I honestly have an easier time playing this game where I hit all these keys and words appear. After a while the words form sentences, and the sentences form paragraphs. I find that when I read these sentences and paragraphs they form pictures in people’s minds. The object of this game is to make the pictures or thoughts mill around in someone else’s minds so that they feel compelled to say “wow...that was really interesting.” I spend a lot of time playing this game.
There’s also this other video game that I play in which I record stuff, either audio or video, import it into my computer, and then hit a lot of keys. This edits it, and then I share it with people. It’s really satisfying, and I have something to show for it.
There’s also this awesome game where I go to a social media site and once again hit a lot of keys on my keyboard. This forms words, and then when I click on the word “send,” those words appear on another person’s screen, sometimes someone who lives far away from me.
The really interesting thing about this game is that I play it differently from other people. There are a lot of people who just keep doing this, sitting in their homes for hours and hours, just hitting keys. What I like to do is send messages to someone else and get them to continue to play an old-fashioned version of this game away from the computer.
In this version, I make all of these phonetic sounds that form words. In the same way that the written words can form pictures and thoughts inside someone else’s head, these spoken words also prompt people to make phonetic sounds of their own.
Often, there’s really no winner of this game. It’s kind of one of those “New Games” that were popular in the 1970s, where you don’t play them to win, but just play them to play them. I’ve actually played this particular game a whole lot.
There’s also this video game where I hit a lot of keys and create words in this email program. This often results in another person agreeing to meet me somewhere. At that point, we usually take out a board game and play it.
Again, this is not as high tech as playing a video game, but it usually great fun.
Anyway, I really had no idea that I would be writing a snarky essay on video games and how I often don’t play them because I’m too busy doing other things.
I’m not even sure if what I wrote is any good. Still, though, it’s something, which is a lot better than the nothing that I thought I was going to write. Or something.
This can happen to you too. When you have nothing to write about, keep writing about how you have nothing to write about without slipping into the temptation to just keep writing “I have nothing to write about,” which is basically the equivolent of writing “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy” many, many times.
No. Besides being on the lookout for stray things that someone says about video games, write about what you see, what other things you’re thinking about (because there are always other things), or, if nothing else, everything that’s on your desk at a given time. Most of these objects won't inspire anything, but often, one of them will.
There’s a three ring binder on my desk. There’s a used toner cartridge from my fax machine. This makes me think about how my fax machine needs a drum. It also makes me think about how for my fax machine, the health insurance program is really lackluster, because the printing drum is on order.
This means that the fax machine, if it gets involved with politics, will lament the health system, and how he or she or it had to wait in this line of other things that needed treatment as well, like my printer, which needs a toner cartridge.
And off we go. I have no idea whether this is any good or not. But the only way to get to the good stuff is to just write...stuff.