When I’m writing a screenplay the blank page scares me. Why? If my screenplay is a reflection of what’s inside of me, then a blank page reveals that inside of me is nothing. At least that’s how it feels.
But that’s where creatio ex nihilo comes in. Creation from nothing. Where there was once a void, I create something new.
Creatio Ex Nihilo has its roots in Christian theology: God creating the universe from the void. Where there was nothing, with a single word, an entire universe bursts into existence. If we are created in God’s image, then perhaps I’m most like my Father when I create; when I write.
I wonder if God felt the same fear when he looked into the void that I feel when I look at a blank page. I guess that’s theologically impossible, but I wonder. Maybe Jesus felt that same knot in his gut when looked upon unworked lumber.
Creatio Ex Nihilo looks like this:
Jill is taking a shower downstairs when the doorbell rings. Her husband John is upstairs watching TV and hasn’t heard it, so she throws on a bathrobe and runs to the front door. She opens it and finds their neighbor Joe. Now, Joe fancies Jill, he always has, and seeing her in her bathrobe, he thinks to himself he’ll make her an indecent proposal.
“Tell you what, Jill” says Joe, “just this one time, if you take your bathrobe off and give me a little twirl, I’ll give you $400. Mums the word, it’ll never be spoken of again.”
Jill thinks it over for a moment, and hey, what the heck, why not? So she drops her bathrobe, and gives Joe a little twirl. Joe smiles, hands her the $400, and leaves.
Jill quickly throws her bathrobe back on, runs to the kitchen, and stuffs the $400 into a cookie jar. Just then her husband John comes down the stairs.
“Hey, was that Joe at the door?” he asks, “did he happen to give you that $400 he owes me?”
Joe had nothing, but he made it look like something. There’s a half-dozen more examples I could cite (especially from The Office, Jim cutting his tie at his and Pam’s wedding being one), but hopefully you get the idea.
Where I have nothing, where I have fear, I must confront if I am to be a writer. I have to be willing to take a risk. I have to be committed to the goal. I have to write.
I have to create.
Or as Joseph Campbell put it:
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”