Kabu Okai-Davies reflects on how his views on the empty page have differed over the span of his writing career.
I used to be afraid of this enchanted void, the empty page; it is now a friend, a mistress and my muse. The empty page is a mirror, reflecting the enigma of my being. It gives glimpses into the future and guides me through the labyrinth of each passing day. I take my grief and joys to her to unravel the riddles hidden in my dreams. She is a clairvoyant, reading new destinies into my thoughts.
“Write on me, fill the emptiness within your heart; I know I am no saint, but I am vulnerable too. I have deep hungers, passions and fears that transcend the simple impulses of lust and shame,” she said.
In my imaginary conversations with the empty page she said: “When I am blank, I am weak, without words I am barren. Write a thousand words a day and pour out your passions into the empty cleavage of my being. Page by page open up the parts that form the whole book and decipher those empty spaces with words that dazzle both you and the world. I am the landscape on which you can build the cathedrals of your dreams, fantasy of skyscrapers, cast spells of splendor and across the warring nations vying for power, link humanity by a bridge of love. I am your only hope.”
“You have won my favors,” she added. “I will bless you with opulence beyond your wildest dreams and build storied mansions to entertain the world. I will bestow upon you treasured tales beyond what you can comprehend. Your name will be written on the pages of time. I will send you travelling to places, transcending the imagination. I am the same page that man first tried to write on as a stone and on the walls of caves, then I become a papyrus scroll, before paper was discovered and then technology made me invisible on a screen.”
“Write, you are not different from Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Dickens, Hugo, Flaubert, Twain, Marquez, Achebe, Baldwin, Wright, Tolkien or Dostoyevsky. What any man can do, so can you. Conceive your dream story and the universe will conspire to help you write. I have had thousands of lovers, they come and go, yet I remain blank each new day, waiting for the next generation of writers to consume me in all my empty spaces. As for the women, don’t tell the world I am the same space on which they stripped naked, losing their treasures of piety and sanity within my void. Emily Dickenson, Emily Bronte, Virginia Wolf, Ayn Rand, Sylvia Platt and those who followed.”
“I still gave those who dared to love me the miracle of life and the world became a better place because of my affairs with poets, authors, writers, philosophers, scientists and thinkers. I am the empty page, waiting for another Hemingway and a Proust to dream and change who I am.”
“Whether I am a tangible page or an electronic screen; you still have to wrestle with the emptiness within your mind. The blank page serves as a clearing space. It helps to clear the mind of the fog of wooly thoughts. Write, fill up my blankness for within you rests the treasures of infinite joy. Come to me with your delusions of grandeur, thinking of me as a virgin in waiting. Make love to me and see how it feels to experience the magic of the enigma within my void.”
“I am bewildered by the technology of how you were made and the magic power of your mysterious space, hiding invisible treasures only visible to the initiated eye of an artist with a dream,” I said. “You are an empire unto yourself, before you, cowards have died many deaths before your empty void.”
“Nations and cultures that never perceived the enlightened meaning of your usefulness were conquered, pillaged and subjugated by those who mastered how to use you to transform their thoughts into things. No truth can exist without it being written and an unwritten history is history that never happened. What is uttered by orators, griots and soothsayers are great when said within the immediate presence of the listener; but in the end it will be gone, lost to the flippant winds of human memory. Every blank page is an opportunity to start, reinvent, change lives and recreate the history of nations. You can become anything you want to be, on a blank page.”
“I prefer to caress you with a golden fountain pen, with ink made out of the secret laboratory of alchemy, that sparkles in the dark, like stars in the sky; casting spells that in moments of epiphany transforms all things into a world of beauty and sweet sin.”
“Why can’t everyone think of me the way you do?” She asked.
“You are the great equaliser,” I said.
“All writers must brave the frontier of the infinite landscape of your empty space, to discover the parable of their own lives. You are source, wellspring of all knowledge as power, truth and creative life. So smile, for you are nothing compared to the frivolous things people say about you. Rest assured, regardless of what people say—especially those who do not read or suffer the ailment called writers block—you are indispensable to the world because you are the eternal mystery of imaginative light.”
Kabu Okai-Davies is an African-Australian playwright, novelist and poet from Ghana. He is the author of Long Road to Africa,Curfew’s Children and Evidence of Nostalgia and Other Stories. He holds a PhD in Creative Writing–UC. He is currently a Visiting Fellow in Writing–School of Arts and Humanities at ANU and the 2015 Alumni Award Winner for Excellence, Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra. His website is http://kabuokai-davies.com/