Monday, November 21, 2011


Every now and again I find myself however-briefly in a state best described as "Nothing" when, even though fully aware of the number of things I could and should be doing, I am for some reason unwilling or incapable of doing any of them. It's not a comfortable feeling, and I resent it.

There's a great song in A Chorus Line titled "Nothing," in which a girl in an acting class struggles with her inability to respond with the feelings her instructor wants her to. At the moment, I know how she feels--or doesn't feel.

I set out this morning to work on my next book. Whenever I'm away from it for any period of time, I always start reading about three or four paragraphs from where I'd left off as a form of mental pump-priming, so that when I get to the last words written, I can just sail right on. But as I did the same thing this morning, I found I had no reaction to it. Nothing. And I had/have absolutely no idea of what the next sentence should be. And the worst part was that I didn't care. Not a comfortable sensation, to be sure.

"All right," I tell myself, "if you don't want to work on the book--which you really, really should be doing--what would you like to do?"

And the answer, not surprisingly, is "Nothing."

So I sit staring at the monitor...noting that it really needs to be wiped off...and listening to classical music and guessed it. I could play some computer solitaire but I have noticed that, for me, it is soporific; three or four games into it and I find myself nodding off.

Nature, they say, abhors a vacuum. So do I, in that a vacuum is, in essence, Nothing. There'll be plenty of time for Nothing--an eternity's worth--once I'm dead, and that prospect doesn't concern me in the least. Death and nothing are synonymous. Therefore moments of Nothing while I'm still alive are disconcerting in the extreme. While I'm still alive, Nothing robs me of life, and there is precious little enough of life in even the best of circumstances

I know that for a great many people, doing Nothing is considered a pleasant pastime. To sit under a tree on a warm summer's day, doing nothing, with no cares and nothing that must be done immediately is generally considered idyllic. I can go along with it for maybe three minutes, max. No matter the beauty of my surroundings or the sense of peace it may offer, I will look around for a passing insect so that I can watch and wonder where it's going and why, and to create scenarios about it. Or I will become absorbed in watching clouds and seeing what my imagination might do with them. To be fair, I would assume those I see sitting in parks or on the lakeshore apparently doing nothing must be at least thinking of something. Otherwise it's rather like watching a screensaver of an aquarium or a burning log.

I am driven to avoid Nothing at all costs, and frantically try to fill it in with Something...Anything. On those occasions where Nothing becomes overbearing--waiting rooms without magazines, bus stops, el platforms--I find myself excruciatingly uncomfortable. Whenever I know I'm going to be in a situation where prolonged waiting will be involved, I try to take along my laptop--though I have found trying to use a laptop in a moving vehicle is a lot easier in theory than in practice.

But, ever the optimist, I suppose I can take comfort that even the subject of Nothing can produce something. This blog, for example.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to check out his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, the recently-released Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs ( ).

No comments: