It’s possible that Portland’s hippie mentality originates in the water system. Either way, don’t sweat it, even if this post comes off as a little crunchy and under-showered I’m not going to be singing Kumbaya anytime soon, unless KMFDM does a remix of it.
If at first you don’t succeed try something else, it’s sure to be more fun, you fucking failure.
Okay, I know that’s not the way the saying goes, but I’ve rewritten it to suit my previous experience. Also, when life hands you lemons go to a meeting in order to prevent you from making lemon drops, taking off your clothes in public, and waking up with a bruised tibia.
Recently I’ve had a bit of a writers’ block. I wrote about it a few times, and it’s caused me to chew my nails for nearly two weeks straight. My efforts to escape it have fallen just short of doing a naked dance in my yard while shaking a tambourine.
This isn’t a conventional block, no. I’m still writing, obviously, and I’m still working on assignments doggedly. Simon and I have even started a game where we write a paragraph-a-day for one another (we’ve named this “P.A.D.,” which leads me to believe that sending more than one paragraph shall be deemed a “maxi P.A.D.”) I’m doing crosswords and I’m reading some books, most of which are boring. I’m still posting to Twitter. And yet, well, let’s just say that I haven’t felt this inept since I tried to put together a piece of Ikea furniture. I’m learning that it isn’t a matter of production, writers’ block — or any creative impasse — is likely due to a simple thing: a lack of inspiration that comes from feeling entirely incapable.
Fear is a great motivator, of course. It fosters my fierce adherence to deadlines, it’s what makes me sit at a computer and try to knock out a blog post to prove that I actually did something with my day other than eat watermelon and complain.
And one can also argue that throwing the creative switch perpetually — via either a microblog, work assignment, or just basic email correspondence — can lead to a dulling of the blade.
Perhaps a more apropos comparison would be to that of using a vibrator. Ladies, you know what I mean. That shit goes numb.
So with this anesthetized creative organ, I’m left with a white flag and two hands ready to wave.
I remember last summer in New York, relaxing in my air conditioned office, answering my boss’ phone and discovering WEBoggle while waiting for the tiny clock at the bottom right hand of my screen to slither towards five. I was writing poetry, for sure, and competing in slams, too, but I found the writing to be more for show, like figuring out the wittiest comeback and then practicing how to yell it with choreographed hand motions. The only sort of true stimulation I got was from reading and constructing emails to Mr. Goetz. I wasn’t happy but I also wasn’t scared. Creative constipation wasn’t an issue for me back then. I had no idea that a year later I’d be trying to play with words for a living. The very idea probably would have required me to seek out a prescription for Xanax.
I start to reminisce and, in that nostalgia, I start to give up. I draw up elaborate plans of how to leave Portland and start over as a secretary as though I were solving a scavenger hunt. (“Jet Blue!” “Craigslist!” “My friend Danielle!” “A studio in Hoboken!”) This writing shit isn’t for me, I assume. The influx of new clients has dried up faster than Ellen DeGeneres at a fraternity reunion, my blog isn‘t getting as much traffic, the story I’ve been working on is about as exciting as Zombo.com. I want to go home. I want things to be easy…or at least easier.
And that’s when the boy on the other side of the Ministry of Imagery ping-pong table sent me this clip of Ira Glass discussing how it’s impossible to feel like you’re any good when you’re just starting out. [Editor’s Note: Big ups to Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders, where Simon originally scoped it.] I sat and watched and cried. Even if I hadn’t been suffering from cramps, bloating, and the emotional tilt-a-whirl known as PMS I would have turned on the waterworks. What Glass says, in all five minutes and twenty seconds of the clip, boils down to these two words that have been echoing in my head for months:
The longer version delves into his personal struggle and how it’s normal to actually recognize that you‘re not as good as you could be. He addresses the idea of creative frustration with a sort of self-effacing optimism that made me want to give him a hug. I felt, on a grand scale, like I wasn’t alone.
The kind of inspiration-drain I’ve been suffering, coupled with creative mediocrity, apparently is fine. So long as you don’t give in you persevere. What I took from the NPR scribe’s videopod, was a clear message, distilled from the seeping familiarity of his droning, comforting voice: grab into the so-called dream with the locked jaws of a pitbull and the tenacity of a pack of piranhas. Keep writing, keep producing, keep fucking going, even if reading your own words makes you want to scoop your eyes out with a grapefruit spoon. Understand that, much like sex, it takes a long time to master it, even if it seems like it should be natural. Just don’t give up attempting to get to where you want to go simply because you feel like you may never get there. How will you know if you stop now?
And that, for tonight, is wisdom enough. Suffer through.
Editor’s Note: The line “my blog isn‘t getting as much traffic” is the kind of statement that, if I hadn’t written it, would make me swear up and down that civilization as a whole is being threatened by technology and that people are fundamentally dumb.
Write to me, it keeps me from gnawing my face off in agony waiting for the next job: AinsleyDrew at the gmail one.