Imagine other ways to be

“Supremacy of all kinds lies in the idea of perfectionism; that there is a right way to be and only the supreme know and do it and the rest of us don’t have a chance. Supremacy also thrives on a lack of imagination. The idea of imagining a different way of being is a threat to those who are holding power. The act of sitting down and spending time not creating something for the market, not trying to be part of a grand tradition of anything perfect and refined, and imagining a world that is different from the one you live in: well, that is an act of resistance…”

—Vanessa Zoltan, “Don’t Just Write a Novel This November. Write a Bad Novel,” Slate, 7 Nov 2022

“I think of the marginalized experiences some people find threatening that have always been here, will always be here. In the past, we pretended not to see them because we did not have a name for them. But art dies, art expires within the time limits of its era, if it does not keep pushing us to name those sparks.”

— Kaitlyn Greenidge. “The Best Book for 2018 Is 25 Years Old.” New York Times, 23 June 2018

“There is another reality, the genuine one, which we lose sight of. The other reality is always sending us hints, which without art, we can’t receive.”

— Saul Bellow, quoted in, quoted in The Week, 19/26 Aug 2016, p. 17

“Imagination is a gateway to truth.”

— Madelyn Jablon. Black Metafiction: Self-Consciousness in African American Literature. University of Iowa Press, 1997. p. 162. 

Writing the negative space

When we set out to draw an object, we usually imagine the object in the foreground of the picture, draw its outline, and fill it in. This is a representation of “positive space.” It is also possible to represent an object in “negative space” by drawing everything that is not it. This is less frequently done, so it often surprises us.

This can happen in verbal descriptions, too. Psychotherapy clients often talk about everything except what’s most important to them. The absence of the important theme may become noticeable to the listener, who is then able to fill in the gaps.

Fiction can be written in negative space, perhaps. But whether you write in positive or negative space, you still need to know what you are trying to communicate. If you don’t know what your image, idea, or message is, you can’t identify “everything that isn’t it.”

Photo: Holocaust Memorial at Church Green, near Redditch, Worcestershire, Great Britain. Artist: Andy DeComyn. Photographer: P L Chadwick. Creative Commons license.