This is actually a point that I've been confused about for some time, and if anyone can clarify, I'd be very grateful.
To the best of my understanding, the present progressive form of 書く would be 書いています (is writing). Negative would be 書いていません (is not writing).
何も書いていません would be "I'm not writing anything".
And I think any passive form of 書く would involve 書かれる, such as 書かれています/ 書かれていません. Would these translate best as "Is written" / "Is not written"? Such as in the case "It's written on the calendar that I have to work tomorrow". That said, I can see that 書いてありません would be more commonly used in the "Nothing is written" situation.
So If I'm right above about the present progressive and the passive, I'm not sure grammatically what tense that makes "書いてあります", and I'm not sure if English has any similar distinction between this form and the passive form.
Can anyone shed some light on this? I apologize if my question is confusing.
書いてある is NOT passive but an aspect that expresses a state wherein the action has already taken place and the result of the action can be seen. I would call this volitional perfect. As opposed to non-volitional perfect (discussed later), this aspect can imply the state denoted is brought about by someone's contrivance. The tense is, as any other verbs ending with -(r)u, non-past or unmarked tense.
Here a letter is written.
Someone has written a letter some time in the past and the letter is still readable today.
I have sent to Mr. Jones garnish order.
Many Japanese verbs are grouped into pairs of intransitive and transitive verbs. When intended for the perfect aspect, they have different implications. Below I use aku vs. akeru ("open" vi and vt) to illustrate the two perfect aspects.
mado-ga aite iru.
Window-NOM open(vi) nonVolitionalPerfect
The window is left open.
Intransitive verb aku makes perfect by combining the te-form with iru. The window is open by chance: it may have opened by itself or someone may have forgotten to close it.
mado-ga akete aru.
Window-NOM open(vt) volitionalPerfect
The window is made open.
Transitive verb akeru makes perfect by combining the te-form with aru. The window is open because it was opened on purpose: someone in the room may have felt stuffy and opened the window for ventilation.
Not every transitive verb has the intransitive counterpart, which follows "broken" patterns just like Arabic plural nouns. Japanese uses the passive morpheme -(r)areru in suppletion to make the non-volitional perfect for them.
E.g., toru (take) is a transitive verb without the intransitive counterpart. In contrast with the volitional perfect 記録をとってある ("Records have been taken" or "This has been recorded"), the non-volitional pefect is;
Usually, however, passive in te-form with iru signifies progressive passive. The distinction is purportedly made by context.