Chengdu Bookworm Writing Group – Intro

So I’ve been doing this thing lately. I’ve joined the Creative Writers’ Group at The Bookworm (a western cafe/bar) in Chengdu. I’ve been going for about a month now, and it’s been amazing. While showing your work to other people is terrifying, it is also liberating. Hearing feedback is absolutely helpful, and every week I learn something new. The piece below is something I submitted for the weekly 500-word Prompt on the topic of “Supermoon”. It was potentially going to go up on our MaLa Literary Journal blog, but came in fourth place… 😉 I joke, it’s a very informal selection procedure, and perhaps just didn’t fit in with the other submissions for that week. So I’ve decided to post it here instead!

It’s a meditation on writer’s block–so a good one to post after a dry-spell of blogging!–as well as a particular Chinese phrase… Enjoy!


一片空白 (No Title)

一片空白 Yīpiàn kòngbái. It’s one of my favourite Chinese phrases.

A blank sheet, an empty space, nothing, emptiness, a piece of white space.

It is used to describe a state of mind–that state of mind when nothing comes to mind, when your head is empty, when it is void of ideas. Drawing a blank, can’t think of anything, coming up with nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

Blank like a blanket sky. Blank like a sky ready to rain. Flat white, like the coffees I order in England. Empty, yet full. Full, and motionless, like a pale bloated belly. Swollen with ideas, opaque with ideas, but frozen. Stiff with fear, fear of the possibilities the blank space contains.

White like walls, like furniture. A white table in a white room, empty. No people, no flowers, no banquet, no bloodstains. White, clean, pure, fresh. I am white-clad in a white room, the white expanse lengthening and consuming me, sucking me in and filling me up until I am nothing. Until there is nothing.

But there isn’t nothing. “Nothing” is blackness. “Nothing” is darkness. “Nothing” is truly empty, but yīpiàn kòngbái is not that. It rises before me, this blank white sheet in my mind. It rises like the moon. Bloated and glowing, it rises. It swells until it is all I can see, all I can taste, all I can think, all I can do. I am nothing but the moon. I am overwhelmed by this great piece of white. I am crushed by it. I am ground into crystal powder by its weight and by its pure white light.

Together we rise. I am nothing but the moon. I am its crystal light. I am its roundness. I am its craters and its shadows. I am its coy gaze. I am watching and I am filling my emptiness, filling myself to the brim. I am a rain-cloud ready to burst, bulging with ideas. My eyes are full.

My gaze is a beam of power, and I aim it at the page before me. The blank white page. Tabula rasa. Yīpiàn kòngbái. It looks like it is empty, but in fact it is full, engorged with possibilities. I sink my hands in, both hands. The soft white clay seeps between my fingers, it molds to my will, to my hands. I claw at it, I tear it apart, I scoop it up, I sculpt the lump of potential into that which I see in my mind’s eye. The blank that I drew in my mind, it is drawn and quartered. I am its master and I will prevail.

I shape the blank space, I draw all over it. I fill it with my words until it is saturated, until the words spill over and the white space is no longer lonely. But what then?

Yīpiàn kòngbái rises to meet me. Every day of my life it hangs in my mind, an eternal moon haunting my every step. Yīpiàn kòngbái. One piece of empty white space. It isn’t nothing. It is everything.

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