I rue the moment I learned to read.
That’s not true. It is the best moment of my life. I remember: the book in my teacher’s hand, me on her lap, her voice narrating the story I knew by heart, my voice an echo, reciting from memory, my finger following, tracking the lines, the gatherings of black shapes and white spaces, a pattern I could not interpret that became, in an unfolding moment, under my eyes, above my tracing finger, a revelation. A revolution.
The white spaces were purposeful dividers, carefully placed emptiness, intentional blanks, creators of meaning, anchors. From the spaces, my eyes reviewed the shapes and discerned them freshly as words, and my voice now was channeling, each word alive and springing through my eyes to my brain and pouring from my mouth. I was reading.
“I’m reading it,” I said to my teacher.
“I know you are,” she answered.
I became an explorer, a collector, a manipulator, a prisoner of words.
Because I can, I have believed I must, read all the words. Yet the world is made of words. Billboards, cereal boxes, requests from charities, letters, blog posts, news stories, essays, poems, novels, novels, novels—if there are words, I will read them, or I will pile them beside me to read in some future when I have read all the other words, and their beauty will call me, because words are beautiful, every word, any collection of words, glowing like a sun spread on the horizon, beguiling, beckoning, filling me with joy, soothing, engaging, spurring my dreams, clamouring, shouting, demanding, ceaselessly reproducing like fruit flies forever and ever and ever.
I need blank spaces.
I have read and read and read and read and read the words, and now I am placing, on the page, the words I have learned to tell a story, the novel I am writing, that I know by heart, in my heart, without knowing it at all. Finding it, I lined up word after word on the page until the story was splayed there, too many words, more than 140,000 of them (560-plus pages). I weeded and trimmed, chopped and whittled, sawed and snipped, keeping only the most beautiful, the essential, piling the others at my side, saving them for some future story.
So, the manuscript is down to just over 87,000 words, average novel length. Now the words glow. Now my beta and sensitivity readers will tell me if it is all there, if I have used the right words, good words, enough words, and I will read the words aloud to myself, listen, change them, add more spaces, add more of my heart, and I will send the story into the world, and you can pile it beside you for that someday future when you need more words.
In the meantime, my writing for this blog is infrequent. The world is words, and adding more here will not change the essence of any of us. I need to experience myself, to learn the art of knowing by heart, and to hear the stories in me. I need to leave a space to be filled with what I find. Here’s to blank spaces, mine and yours.
4 thoughts on “A space left empty, a space to be filled”
Whoa! That’s a major accomplishment to whittle your WIP down so much. I’m very impressed. I bet the remaining words really shine. Congrats to you for putting in the work!
April, thanks so much for reading this piece. It was a challenge to cut so much, at times I thought I wouldn’t manage, and now I’m waiting on a reader’s feedback to know if there’s more to cut or if I’ve chopped too much. There’s so much room for growth, isn’t there.
What a fun memory. I don’t remember the moment it happened, but it is something of a miracle if you think about it. Such a complex process most of us take for granted.
It does rather blow my mind to think about it, Lissa. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂