I have been reading a book that compares map making to writing. The book's author, Peter Turchi, writes about negative space, how what isn't on the page tells us as much as what is. Looking at it from this angle, negative space is actually positive. All of that white around my words is not empty, thoughtless space, but valuable space the reader will fill with his or her own imagery and emotion.
The author has made me reconsider my prose style, how writing in short bursts, much like writing poetry, is not asking too much of the reader. The reader will follow me as I leap from image to image, from scene to scene. Like a good relationship, one where words are not necessary, where silence is as full as any conversation, a well-written poem or book is intuited as much as read.
As writers, do we trust this white space, the blank page, the chapter that turns out to be a paragraph? When a poem looks odd on the page, when it looks like it belongs to someone else, do we allow it its voice or do we shape it into something familiar?
I may be wrong, but this seems to be about trust. Trust in ourselves, in our ability to communicate, not only as writer or cartographer, but as human animal. And trust in our readers who are willing and able to make the leaps, fill in the intentional or unintentional gaps, and follow us with full confidence.
The quote above, the totally terrifying idea of being lost and getting loster, gives us permission to follow our hearts, our peculiar ideologies, into the unknown. We want answers; we want things explained to us so we know what’s expected of us. We want that blank page covered with detailed instructions! We want, quite literally, a map. And when the map is not forthcoming, we become Saul Bellow's loster.
We frequently place our trust in something or in someone to show us valleys and mountain trails, to direct us to the drinking water, to ultimately be our Virgil. How surprising to find that we are alone in this; we are the map makers and our maps, no matter how hard we labor, no matter how beautiful they appear, are never complete. And in their incompleteness, is an almost incomprehensible freedom to create something never before imagined.