Alphabet Blogging Challenge Day 14

It’s day 14 of my September blogging challenge

The letter is N

and the word is NOTHING

We all know what the word ‘nothing’ means, but let’s consult the dictionary anyway. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines nothing as No thing, not anything, nought. Difficult to write a post about then, but the word ‘nothing’ is more complex than that.

The concept of ‘nothing’ has intrigued philosophers, mathematicians, scientists, linguists for centuries. Can there possibly be a state of nothingness? Can human beings imagine a void of nothingness?

Nothing comes from nothing (ex nihilo nihil fit) is a philosophical expression of a thesis first argued by Parmenides. It is associated with ancient Greek cosmology, such as presented not just in the work of Homer and Hesiod, but also in virtually every philosophical system – there is no time interval in which a world didn’t exist, since it couldn’t be created ex nihilo in the first place. The Greeks also believed that things cannot disappear into nothing, just as they can’t be created from nothing, but if they ceased to exist, they transform into some other form of being. Today the idea is associated with the laws of mass and energy.

The word ‘nothing’ runs through Shakespeare’s plays. Perhaps its most famous use is when King Lear says to his daughter Cordelia, ‘Nothing will come of nothing.’ He means if she remains silent and fails to declare how much she loves him, she will receive nothing. In fact, the play goes on to demonstrate that although she continues to say nothing, something – a huge tragedy – does arise from ‘nothing’. There other examples where the word does indeed mean something – Hamlet: nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so; Antony and Cleopatra: And there is nothing left remarkable/Beneath the visiting moon; Midsummer Night’s Dream: The form of things unknown, the poet’s pen?Turns them into shapes, and gives to airy nothing/A local habitation and a name. And it’s worth remembering that in Shakespeare’s time, the word ‘nothing’ had a sexual connotation!

One of my reasons for picking the subject for this post (besides tangling myself in knots with the complexities of the concept), is that ‘nothing’ often seems to feature in a writer’s psyche. ‘I’ve written nothing,’ we say. ‘I’ve done nothing for weeks.’ We fear the blank page, the expanse of whiteness that reflects so distinctly our lack of words. I think it was Rolf Harris who said ‘You have to kill the white.’

And from the point of view of writing, I think it’s true that ‘nothing will come from nothing’. If the page persists in remaining blank, we are left with only regret or guilt, a sense of failure, or possibly most crushing of all, the death of our dreams.

We have to kill the white. We have to write ‘something’, no matter how futile, rubbishy, or banal our words might seem. Because once they are down on the page, once there is ‘something’ to work with, the possibility of all sorts of gold emerges.

If you want to write, you have to get words on the page; you have to put ‘something’ down. ‘Nothing’ is not an option!

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14 Comments

  1. ‘”Nothing” is not an option’ ~ brilliant πŸ™‚

  2. Lindsay says:

    Thanks, Polly. This wasn’t an easy post!

  3. Maureen Hall says:

    Best ‘Alphabet Blog’ so far – and they’ve ALL been good!

  4. Lindsay says:

    Gosh – thanks, Mo! Glad you liked it.

  5. Christine says:

    I agree, a very good post. How often have we all sat with the cursor blinking on the page like an impatient runner waiting for us to fire the starting gun? And when we do, sometimes we find we haven’t loaded it or it misfires! But as long as we get something down, as you rightly say, then we have something to work with. So on that note, I’m off to start the race.
    I’ve been amusing myself trying to guess what your subject will be each day – I don’t get out much – and so far I’ve been wrong every time. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

  6. Lindsay says:

    I like the cursor image, Christine. Good luck with the race! Thank you for taking sufficient interest in my alphabet challenge that you try to guess the subject each day. Think you might get today’s right!

  7. Christine says:

    I doubt it – I’ve got Ovaltine stuck in my head! Why, I have no idea. So if it’s that, heaven knows what you’re going to say!

  8. Lindsay says:

    Now there’s an idea, Christine:

    WE ARE THE OVALTINEYS Theme from the Radio Luxembourg show “The Ovaltineys” (1935-1950) (Harry Hemsley) We are the Ovaltineys, little girls and boys Make your requests, we’ll not refuse you We are here just to amuse you Would you like a song or story? Will you share our joys? At games and sports we’re more than keen No merrier children could be seen Because we all drink Ovaltine We’re happy girls and boys.

  9. Christine says:

    Ha ha – did you know the words or did you have to look them up? I don’t even like Ovaltine- I was a Horlicks person myself!

  10. Lindsay says:

    How sad do you think I am, Christine? I looked them up! I did have a vague idea of a tune in my head and a first line, but that’s all. And I’m happy to say I haven’t ever been tempted by Ovaltine or Horlicks!

  11. But, Lindsay, I think we also need to cherish the white page…its the soil that needs tilling and fertilising. And sometimes mulching and composting and when apparently nothing is going on its just a little winter rest maybe!
    Glyn Maxwell, whose brilliant book On Poetry that I have been reading while on holiday, says “In my work the white is everything but me.” He likens the white to the music a song writer composes for. He calls the white “time”. I recommend the book though it is rather hard going.
    Cheers becky

  12. Lindsay says:

    That’s a really interesting perspective, Becky. I definitely agree that time spent ‘mulching and composting’ is essential. A lot of the process of writing takes place in your ahead, away from the computer or the page. I suppose I was thinking more of sitting down to write but being paralysed by fear of the white page. By the editorial stick that won’t allow you to write anything that’s not perfect.

  13. Emily DIckinson wrote ‘I dwell in Possibility…..’ Let the white page be ‘Possibility’!
    Just a thought. It’s only a kind of developing fluid!!!
    Cheers B

  14. Lindsay says:

    I’m enjoying your relationship with the white page, Becky! The white page definitely symbolises possibilty, but I worry when it remains only possibilty; when wonderful stories exist in your head, but somehow fail to make it onto the page. I think you have to begin – ‘First sentences are doors to worlds.’ Ursula K. Le Guin – and I want to create those worlds.

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