Friday, October 2, 2015

Good for What Ails Ye



Well. Ummm...(looks back across blasted heath of several post-less months.) Right. So, it would be great if I had a good reason for the long radio silence. Like perhaps that I was taking time off to finally get my story published, or wasting away from a flesh-eating virus. Unfortunately, neither of those things happened and my absence is entirely due to writerly bullshit, and not even good bullshit. My life in the last several months has changed in immense ways and I haven't really known how to put any of those changes into words. For starters, this blog was always supposed to be about my journey to getting published, and while that premise has been stretched wafer-thin at times, it has always in some way come back to that. (Except the post about the Hobbit movie. That was just anger.)

I feel conflicted then, digressing too much to talk about my personal life because every advice book for writers says that your blog has to have a central "theme" and if you deviate from that theme even a little then no one will read it and without a reader base you will never publish real things, and will probably die alone. I don't know when getting published meant running your own marketing campaign before the manuscript even gets to the publisher's desk, but apparently that's what it takes now. And even beyond the practical concerns of writing a post that has nothing to do with aforementioned "theme," writing in general has been endlessly frustrating. I’ve had writer’s block for months now, except “writer’s block” doesn’t really cover it because I wonder at times if anyone actually understands what it is. So I’ll get a little creative. I have had brain-constipation. That’s what writer’s block is, anyway, but at least I don’t sound like I’m suffering from a very pretentious strain of herpes flare up that only the likes of Hemingway and Toni Morrison could comprehend. Brain-constipation, as the name implies, means I have ideas. Plenty of ideas! Truckloads, in fact. Or, if not concrete ideas, I have the desire to write. Stuff is there, swimming around in my brain. But it can’t figure a way out in any useful capacity and it gets to the point where I think bashing my head into a wall might be the best route of egress for all this lovely inspiration. The worst part of this most recent bout of brain-constipation is that I’ve done it to myself. I am the agent of my own creative back-up. It’s a bummer.

The issue (irony abounds) is my attempt to carve out a manuscript from my story. Editing is tedious and frustrating on the best of days but when I hit a brick wall with that on my third rewrite, I stopped writing altogether. To the point that, even when I had a new idea or just wanted to experiment to see where something went, I would think, “What’s the point? This has nothing to do with my book, this won’t help me get published or make any money. It’s just a dumb idea that won’t turn into anything worthwhile, so why bother?” That is a dangerous idea to have, as a writer. That’s how you get brain-constipation. The pressure to create something “worthwhile” and my guilt over not being able to made me lock down my writing impulses and view every instinct I had to just mess around and have fun as a waste of time. My brain resents being told not to have fun and it has been punishing me ever since. The good news is that Ireland is the Ex-Lax for my brain-constipation, apparently. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Another element to declogging my neural pathways was moving. Oh yes! I live all by my lonesome now. No longer do I have roommates whom I must share the bathroom and the TV and the milk with! Now I have only myself to blame when the toilet paper runs out! All the hair that collects in my bathtub drain is mine, and no one else's! Truly, this is what it means to be free. The move itself was insane and a bit  traumatic, since I've never done such a thing before and I am biologically required to do everything the hardest way I can find, at least the first time around. So yeah, good times for all. I was a wreck to the point that my friend Dani, who has known me for years and is well aware that I am a cracker-jack nutjob, was legitimately worried about my mental state. It wasn't a great day. But it got done, I sacked out at my folks' place because we had used all my bedding to cushion my nice wood furniture in the moving truck and now they had dust and grease from the truck bed ground into them, and my sibling got me back to my new home the following afternoon where I was then left, by myself, for realsies.

Good times. I only cried, like twice. After I was dropped off, that is. I cried about fifty times the day of the move. I am hiring movers next time, by God, I don't give a damn how much it costs. Seriously.

The next big thing was that I went on a trip to Ireland for a week with my friend and former roommate Lucy. I've done the abroad thing before. I lived for three months in Rome during my senior year in college, a living arrangement so trippy for a non-EU member that it might be hard to get your head around but trust me; you can get bored of living in Rome. It's the tourism, I think. That and the dog shit. 


"You think my owner will clean this up? This isn't the Vatican! Have a free souvenir, stronzo!"


I'd even done a weekend trip to Ireland where, admittedly, we spent most of the time in Northern Ireland, though we did have a day in Dublin. But so limited had our time been and so not-adventurous had I been that upon deplaning in Dublin two weeks ago, nothing looked even remotely familiar. The sun was shining and it was a balmy 72 degrees, so I was pretty sure for a while that we were actually in the wrong country, but no. Contrary to common belief, it doesn't rain every single day in Ireland. At least not during the summer, with the exception of course of the summer Lucy and I took our trip. Everyone there was water-logged and slightly crazed, desperate for news of less drippy climes. So many people kept coming up to us and asking us where we were from and what we thought of all this goddamn rain. When Lucy and I told them we'd actually anticipated this because we thought it rained year round in Ireland, they would just laugh the laugh of someone who hasn't seen the sun in months and plod off through the puddles. But other than a severe vitamin D deficiency, everyone in Ireland was lovely. It was gorgeous and homey and welcoming and I honestly wish I was still there.





I'm not going to mention a trip to Ireland and then only show you a picture of a dog taking a crap. I'm not a monster

 What I had hoped, somewhere tucked in the back of my head, was that Ireland could fix me. That I would go there and come back and all the words that had eluded me would just come flowing out. And I then I would feel awake and relevant and worthwhile again, and my manuscript would continue apace and I could finally start achieving my dreams. Well, I don’t know about all of that flowery crap, but I am here, writing this right now, so I suppose this is something of a victory. On a ferry boat bobbing just off the coast of Galway Bay I stared at the sunny blue stretch of the Atlantic while storm clouds rolled and gathered over the mainland behind me and I had a moment to think. Not of anything in particular, and I didn’t have any epic epiphany. I just asked myself, “What am I doing? What is my life?” and the answer was water sluicing up on the deck and soaking my shoes. Which is basically life in a nutshell, I feel. So I don’t know if my writing is back, precisely. I haven’t worked any heavy creative muscles since I got back. But I am trying to find more time in my day-to-day life, and I’ve even started looking into writing conferences and retreats. Maybe even one of those stipends where people straight up pay you to write so you don’t have to muck about with a job like a real person. That would be great. Only time will tell. However, I do promise to try and be better with this blog from here on out. Avoiding my writing certainly won’t get any of it done, and even if no one is reading this anymore, or ever to begin with, I’ll find more things to post about in the hope that someone, somewhere will offer me an absurdly lucrative book deal. 


You gotta aim for the stars. But make sure you keep one hand on the rail and don’t stand too close to the prow, or you’ll end up with cold, squishy socks. And that’s almost as bad as brain-constipation.  


That sign depicts how the island of Inis Or suggests you get back to the mainland.


"The Cliffs of Insanity!"*



*Fun fact: those are the Cliffs of Moher, just south of Galway Bay near Doolin, and that spot was actually used as the Cliffs of Insanity in Princess Bride


Screenshot from the actual movie. They added the bit up top to look more...cliffy, I guess.