Flow of Creation and the Metaxy, or the Myth of the Scary Blank Page

The scary blank page is a common literary myth with several variants. It may be invoked to explain writer’s block (a sub-myth?). Among the Symbolists it was arrayed in the vestments of concept-repelling virginity.

We think of a text as a space open to mindful or mindless construction. Of course once you start constructing something you have to make choices. There are all sorts of literary choices (tone, genre, etc), but even more fundamental ones.

Any sort of composition involves the ‘senses of being’ (Desmond). These senses are implicit in our attitude toward or feelings about reality. (Cf the ancient rhetorical topics ethos, logos, and pathos.) Desmond usefully enumerates four senses: univocal or strictly objective; equivocal or ambiguous; dialectical, or determined by logic and desire; and metaxological, a blend of these senses into s dynamic ‘open whole’ which reflects our desire to be released from determinations and embraced by energies associated with justice and love.
Most texts move through the labyrinth of the senses of being toward the metaxy, or space of creation. Certainly successful texts do so, with varying degrees of mindfulness.
The good news is that the flow of creation is not so much a matter of deliberation as a matter of performance based on observation, study, and practice. Most of the moves from sense to sense become a matter of muscle memory. Composition is like sport, like cooking, lovemaking. Mistakes may be made. In revision, transitions may require a deeper mindfulness.

Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at tom.develyn@comcast.net. D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at http://tdevelyn.com and other sites.

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