On nights like this when I could write about the rats nest of electrical wires my father discovered in our attic that is going to prevent us from having the house insulated this winter, Adam’s fire hose of vomit in my face last night and his repeat performance this evening on the floor of the toy room or even his strange fascination with brooms, mops and rakes I somehow find myself at a complete loss for words. When this happens I employ an exercise from my teaching days I used with students to help them get through writer’s block. The exercise is to simply write without stopping. Not to think about what you’re writing, whether it makes sense, whether it’s good or whether it’s absolute shit but just to keep writing. It’s been a long time since I’ve used this device (well except for the absolute shit part), but tonight as the witching hour approaches and the cursor blinks in the upper left hand corner of a blank page I needed to call in a favor. I suppose I could post more of VH1’s Behind the Music: M.C.Shadoe, but everything in moderation.
Deep breath everybody, here we go…
I suppose I write because it’s only when I write do I feel like I have any control in my life. Not merely control of the words, but control of my actions, thoughts, emotions, the past, present, and future. Did you know that when I write I can stop time?
I can suspend a moment like pressing the worn pause button on a DVD remote suddenly freezing the screen, creating statues from humans, still-life paintings from live action big screen productions. This is what I can do when I write. Every word results from interminable thought, internal discussion and debate, trial and error and everyone everything everywhere waits for me to continue; to hit the play button and set the wheels in motion again.
Life in real time doesn’t offer me, or anyone else for that matter, the opportunity to pause the action to make the right decision, to construct the perfect sentence, to wait until I’m ready to continue. It might take hours to craft a paragraph yet the final product is a seamless microcosm of situational reality. Reality gives us one chance to act and react and then the moment is gone.
Try to recreate a moment. Try to relive an experience. Try to capture the past in the present. Gather the same people to the same place, say and do the same things and inevitably you will discover that all you’ve done is dilute the original experience with a second generation carbon copy. Write a sentence. Re-write the same sentence. Read them both. Identical. Each word, each letter, each punctuation mark, each part of speech, a flawless recreation. That is what writing does for the writer.
We are scientists without science. We are deities without religion. We are architects without buildings. We are doctors without medicine. We have words and with words we heal, we construct, we revere and are revered, and with words we have control. Why then as a writer do I find it so difficult to write?
So easily distracted, so easily drawn from the keyboard, so easily inspired to drop the pencil, abandon the paper and indulge random whims of procrastination. The one gesture I possess that offers solace and serenity yet I fidget with my surroundings like a nervous father-to-be in a hospital maternity waiting room. He paces, checks the clock, sits downs, stands up, sits down again, finger juggles a handful of celebratory cigars, pistons his leg as if he were practicing for when he’ll be able to bounce his child on his knee for a giggling game of “Horsey”. This is me.
Instead of writing I’m checking my emails, or the comments on my blog or the recent posts of the blogs in my feeder. Instead of writing I’m brewing a pot of coffee and mixing the cream and sugar in the bottom of my favorite mug creating a muddy paste for when the coffee maker gurgles to completion. Instead of writing I’m staring out windows creating “to-do” lists that can include anything from raking the lawn to mentally constructing a brick patio and path that I have no intention of beginning until at least next spring. Instead of writing I’m watching TV with the sound off because the sound is distracting. Instead of writing I’m listening to sports talk radio and waiting for the same scores that I heard 20 minutes ago on the last break. Instead of writing I’m pacing, standing up, sitting down, checking the clock…waiting for the birth of my child.
Words are my children and I am not only their father but I am the doctor who needs to deliver them into the world, smack them on the ass and syringe suck the snot from their noses … scream cry wail tremble in the cold tiled sterility of the deliver room. As long as I avoid the pencil, the pen, the paper, the keyboard …the children remain in the womb.
My hands swell with the nascent embryos of inspiration yet I avoid their delivery with prenatal distractions.