Writing on the Wake of the Void

Writing on the Wake of the Void

I dis­cov­ered that it is nec­es­sary, absolute­ly nec­es­sary, to believe in noth­ing. That is, we have to believe in some­thing which has no form and no color—something which exists before all forms and col­ors appear.

Shun­ryū Suzuki


Every word is like an unnec­es­sary stain on silence and noth­ing­ness.

Samuel Beck­ett

To write about some­thing is dif­fi­cult enough, but to embrace noth­ing­ness in our writ­ing is a whole nother mat­ter. Writ­ing is the prax­is of self-alien­ation and the aban­don­ment of one’s voice. It is a mute activ­i­ty. It is, like all cre­ative acts, whol­ly reliant on noth­ing­ness to bring itself into exis­tence and to reify the exis­tence of its cre­ator. Always direc­tion in nar­ra­tive based on the myth of coher­ent lin­ear time. The strug­gle of the writer is not between them­selves and their read­er but between them­selves and the infinite vac­u­ous­ness of the uni­verse. So much emp­ty space. A blank page stands in for the uni­verse whiter and brighter than the big bang word­less and blind­ing­ly devoid of life or any­thing. The writer is not God and cre­ativ­i­ty is just anoth­er spon­ta­neous burst of ener­gy; anoth­er cog work­ing toward entropy. Every­thing is ephemer­al and the beau­ty of the cre­ative act is its inher­ent accep­tance that it will decay into noth­ing­ness. The very act of cre­at­ing some­thing is promis­ing its sac­ri­fice to the void of the for­got­ten.

I am not sure why I write? It is cer­tain­ly not for mon­ey or fame. I remain an obscure and obtuse relic of some sort of Flauber­tian wave of nos­tal­gia. I’m not sure I even like Flaubert all that much. Flaubert and his ulti­mate goal was to pen a book about noth­ing. I respect this. Flaubert was the man who claimed that “the most beau­ti­ful books are those with the least mat­ter.” May­be I am a vic­tim of one of the def­i­n­i­tions of post­mod­ernism? Too many nar­ra­tives and too much paral­y­sis. The inabil­i­ty to tru­ly artic­u­late myself from the bow­els of the void. I write for no rea­son, and per­haps this is why I am not sure why it is exact­ly that I write. I too Flaubert, want to write about noth­ing, and I too believe the most beau­ti­ful things are those with the least mat­ter.

The only true wis­dom is in know­ing you know noth­ing.


Through his per­fec­tion­ism and despite my alliance with him Flaubert has failed me. Every word is thought to rep­re­sent some­thing, to real­ly mean some­thing. We are said to know some­thing as con­strued through the words we have come to know it. But the purest knowl­edge is with­out words. So why why write? My writ­ing often bor­ders on the non­sen­si­cal, illog­i­cal and abstract. The irony is that some of my favorite writ­ers are those, like Flaubert or Robert Walser, whose very con­cern is find­ing some form of ori­en­ta­tion between them­selves and the uni­verse. What I write is intend­ed to dis­ori­en­tate and make one feel lost with­in the uni­verse that they or we have believed exists in a cer­tain way. My writ­ing is aimed at fic­tion­al­iz­ing real­i­ty and not defin­ing, reflect­ing or find­ing it. But at the same time, and espe­cial­ly in my poet­ic work, I find myself trapped in this painter­ly Flauber­tian min­i­mal­ist aes­thet­ic and it is between the­se two world-views, the­se two con­flict­ing aes­thet­ics, that I find my writ­ing on the wake of the void.

My inter­est in noth­ing­ness is what it has to say. For me, silence is a well-con­struct­ed myth. The most deaf­en­ing sound is the absence of one. Writ­ing is voice­less in the aural sense of my speak­ing; how­ev­er, no one can deny the clam­our of words orga­nized thought­ful­ly or spon­ta­neous­ly across a page. Every word becomes its own big bang. Every word is its own cos­mol­o­gy. A sud­den burst of life and a quick cold death. At the same time every word exhaust­ed in the pur­suit of under­stand­ing the uni­verse is sim­ply anoth­er brick added to the already top­pling Tow­er of Babel. We must speak not with our words, but with the wis­dom of under­stand­ing that we tru­ly know that we know noth­ing, and accept that our words too must suc­cumb to noth­ing­ness.

But what is it to write about noth­ing? For Flaubert the most sim­plis­tic for­mu­la was to write about the every­day in exact­ing words. To paint a scene, or to ani­mate life as sim­ply as pos­si­ble through words. In Beck­ett we see the con­struc­tion of a lit­er­ary impas­si­bil­i­ty, espe­cial­ly in The Unname­able and Texts for Noth­ing. In his writ­ing of the­se books Beck­ett came to real­ize the ter­ror of thought and the non­tran­scen­den­tal nature of lan­guage and writ­ing. Unlike Flaubert, in Beck­ett we can­not extract the real­i­ty of life and nature sim­ply through words. Instead, we can only speak of alien­ta­tion and noth­ing­ness, for some­where between is where we strug­gle to exist. Beck­ett express­es excel­lent­ly the self-alien­ation of the author and nar­ra­tor, and espe­cial­ly so in Texts for Noth­ing. We can see the act of nar­ra­tion or the cre­ation of a sto­ry as a form of tor­ture. The impos­si­bil­i­ty of both end­ing or con­tin­u­ing the sto­ry. The insur­mount­able dif­fi­cul­ty in the respon­si­bil­i­ty of the nar­ra­tor to bring some­thing out of noth­ing­ness, to cre­ate some­thing all while know­ing there is noth­ing but noth­ing. Writ­ing is this: it is impos­si­ble.

The mis­take I make is to try and think, even the way I do, such as I am I shouldn’t be able, even the way I do.

Samuel Beck­ett

Thought­ful writ­ing or writ­ing with thought slips into a sort of onto­log­i­cal fic­tion. It threat­ens to become dis­hon­est in its deliv­ery. It doesn’t admit to the authors ten­u­ous nature. And through it, the author can­not admit that they know that they know noth­ing. A thought­ful author seeks immor­tal­i­ty, they do not sub­mit them­selves to noth­ing­ness.

Writ­ing on the wake of the void is to accept noth­ing­ness. To give the uni­verse colour and to allow it to fade back into black. It accepts the puri­ty of ephemer­al­i­ty and decay. Writ­ing about noth­ing is writ­ing for the sake of pure inter­est and in the sus­pen­sion of a moment that might allow us to for­get about our­selves and spill the intel­lect over the edges of rea­son and onto the shores of an unrea­son­able nir­vana.

For as long as there have been men — and men who read Lautréa­mont — every­thing has been said and few peo­ple have gained any­thing from it.

Raoul Vaneigem

May­be I write to for­get or to med­i­tate? I write in explo­sions. Quick­ly and dra­mat­i­cal­ly. It is eas­ier to answer the ques­tion of why I don’t write when I don’t write … I have too much to say of too lit­tle impor­tance and I haven’t reached that point where I under­stand it in the con­text of the void. It is mean­ing­less if I try. If I write about noth­ing it can be fire­works. Loud, beau­ti­ful and as quick as it comes into exis­tence it falls back into noth­ing­ness. But as much as every­thing has been said … noth­ing has been said at all.



J. L. Borges, Self-Por­trait (drawn after he went blind).

The sto­ry goes that, before or after he died, he found him­self before God and he said: “I, who have been so many men in vain, want to be one man: myself.” The voice of God replied from a whirl­wind: “Nei­ther am I one self; I dreamed the world as you dreamed your work, my Shake­speare, and among the shapes of my dream are you, who, like me, are many persons—and none.”

J. L. Borges

Let your­self fall into the last peri­od lie a black hole. Keep falling until all turns white. Lan­guage has become arti­fice here. Even if our aim is to write about some­thing, it will sure­ly be swept up in the ebb and tide of noth­ing. To cre­ate is to craft some­thing know­ing it will suf­fer our same fate in death. We try in vain to write our many lives with such accu­ra­cy as to strike the bullseye of eter­ni­ty and immor­tal­i­ty. We are many and we are none. But we should not wor­ry. After all, when the words end … there is noth­ing.