I’ve heard writer’s block described as many things: a curse, a scourge upon one’s imagination, death by tedium. Maybe the experience of it is too subjective to box in with a pithy metaphor, but there is one thing we can all agree on. Writer’s block is the denial of creative joy. It is just awful.
Writer’s block is also an emotional condition, and this is how you might work through it.
Today as I walked back to work from the bank, I momentarily lost track of my sanity. Or, perhaps, I brushed up against it for the first time in a long time.
At a corner, waiting for a light, I looked to my left and saw the image that just wrenched the consciousness of the civilized world, a Syrian man holding his dead twin babies, who had died in a chemical weapon strike. Like a lot of people the world over who saw that image, my initial shock emptied into a vacuum of feeling. My self-interested brain couldn’t handle that picture.
Information follows the model initially crafted by the porn industry, filtering itself to suit our highly specific needs. However you’re bent up inside, porn has adapted to you before you’ve even admitted to yourself what you like. Now general information is treated as a similar commodity. It’s all too easy for your apps to only feed you data that reinforces what you already prefer. The more you consume, the more that’s what you want to consume. Like your mom feeding you mushed up bananas when you were two. The result is remarkably similar, except that you’re just regurgitating back onto the internet instead of all over your bib.
The idea of craft is meant to conjure up an image of an individual person honing a skill beyond proficiency to something like art. It is more than employment, it is a labor of love, perhaps a quiet passion, a complex, subtle task that requires years of study and practice. A craftsman is more than some person with a set of tools; She is a person who has a deep emotional relationship with what she makes.
Whipping up your decaf soy pumpkin-spice latte is not like that.
1. The idea squirms uninvited from the folds of your unconscious mind, generally at an inopportune time. Like while you’re sleeping, or parallel parking on a busy thoroughfare in a rainstorm, or on a first date that isn’t going well.
2. You jot the idea down on whatever scrap of paper happens to be in reach. Sometimes, if you’re clever or lucky, that scrap is part of a notebook or maybe finds its way into your pocket. Often, the idea is recorded in the form of a partially coherent text message to yourself.
3. You spend a few days secretly enraptured with the idea, nursing it along, letting it develop. Every once in a while you sneak a look at the notebook page or scrap of paper to remind yourself of how rare and wonderful it is. The larger narrative it’s a part of begins to take shadowy form. You may find yourself feeling a bit giddy. But then…
Rage lives in the body, subtler than we give it credit for. It waits for its moment, lies dormant, concealed until it sees a chance. Until then it nestles in your gut, leaking slowly into the surrounding tissues, subtly shading your perception of the world. It spreads itself out so smoothly, so thin, that you hardly register its presence. But it’s always there.
Rage can ignite in a second or gradually boil over, but either way it channels itself down the shortest route to expression. It wants to be free of you, to leave your body, to be broadcast through your voice, to be projected by the violent kinetics of your fists. If someone in your sphere of perception — a demagogue, say — offers a quick, easy route, the rage will leap to respond. It will never wait for reason to reveal a more constructive truth. It will surge in the direction of release. Rage is cheap that way.
I see them around all the time. At the market, fondling the organic papayas, still dressed like they just got back from Burning Man, in need of a shower, and with glitter in their hair. Glitter. Like my four-year-old daughter asks for when we do face painting. There are scads of these dudes all around, all the time. Wearing suspenders and a patched-elbow corduroy blazer, riding a single-speed bicycle down a busy street like they automatically get the right-of-way because they’re sporting a braided wool scarf.
There are adults among us who have never had to sneak downstairs to the living room of their parents’ house at two in the morning to call a verboten girlfriend. They have never had to wait for a sibling to get off the phone before trying to arrange a date. Even the dates themselves are now entangled in digital effluvia. You are never alone in a car with a love interest, even if you’re parked somewhere distant, looking at the city lights. You remain tethered to the broader context of your life by the phone in your pocket.
I don't know about you, but I never asked to have the gruesome, horrifying political id of this country so graphically diagrammed. I'm talking about the election, something I swore to myself I wouldn't do with anyone except people who already dislike me. Sadly, I surrender. There is something wrong with us all, and we need to accept this electoral sinkhole for what it is: a symptom of a greater illness.
This election is what happens when people lose track of the essential nature of their own humanity.
Let me be totally honest here: I am a prepper site troll. This is embarrassing for several reasons.
First, it’s a little shameful that I’m into prepping in the first place. For the uninitiated, “prepping” refers to a compulsion to stockpile supplies and create plans of action for various forms of apocalypse. A prepper, for example, will have a bug-out-bag designed to be grabbed just as the bombs drop, the grid fails, and chaos erupts. Do you have a zombie horde avoidance strategy?
There are a lot of things in the world that can hurt a man's pride. Not that women don't experience the emotion; They certainly do. It's just that it doesn't seem that the feminine reaction to injured pride has the same volatility as the masculine. A man with wounded pride is often stupid, irrational, uniformly ridiculous, and occasionally dangerous. Maybe extremely so. Look at your news feed today. See those faces locked into stacks of unmoving lines? Look at their eyes when they talk. You'll see it: exhausted yet composed, chemically stabilized, men with terribly wounded pride.
Two men pass each other on the street, moving in opposite directions, and due to pedestrian traffic or spatial limitations one or both will have to give way just a little to avoid a collision. Seems like a totally unremarkable situation, something common to anyone who lives in a city or visits a shopping mall, so why does it often feel like such weird little battle of wills? Is it just me, or is there an enormous amount of coded data getting pushed around when we navigate each other on the sidewalk?