Relaxative from the Fringe
It goes by many names: writer’s block; page death; dumb brain no think good time. It comes when a professional bullshitter sits before the keyboard, but the bullstuff just won’t come.
It happens to all writers sooner or later. Sometimes most of a writer’s career is made up of long periods of writer’s block punctuated with great stuff; Salinger comes to mind. Sometimes a writer’s best work happens when she or he emerges from a bowel-bending blockage to produce something really original.
Even so, it isn’t much fun to experience, and certainly isn’t pretty to watch. The writer who once approached the keyboard as one kneels to a lover now fights and wrestles with a psycho-bitch; every word is agonizing labor to produce and a mad bastard child when it arrives. Hours of sweat and prayer are dashed with alt-a delete. Words pulled like hairs from around the ass and pasted to the paper with numb and frustrated hands are blasted to pure white; then the blankness of the page taunts and mocks the writer for a cuckold: the fickle muse has gone to charm another, and your finger will not stiffen enough to write sense.
There are typical and extreme measures writers take when words won’t come. Epic binges of drugs and alcohol; affairs of passion, degradation and public shame; enlistment for war and likely death; a day job; and in rare and tragic cases, suicide. (We miss you Ernest Hemingway, but you’d be dead now anyway.) Sometimes, they work; the writer is involved in her or his craft again, shed of the suffocating mucus of a blocked mind. Sometimes they die, leaving readers and critics to finally decide on a masterwork. Sometimes, they just get old.
There are few things a writer dreads more than the end of words. Most of us hope to write to the end and murmur at least a few poignant plums to our sobbing kin on our deathbed. Nearly all of us prefer babbling madness to being mute.
It’s the chance you take; most good writers don’t write because they want to be writers; they are writers because they have to write. A dilettante can move on to scrap booking or dog grooming; a writer can’t. Every good writer sees before her or himself the reader- intelligent, honest, willing only to give one a chance to entertain or inform. A writer hates to disappoint the reader as a loving parent dreads to disappoint a deserving child. It makes one try even when trying seems too much.
Your Fringe Editor has had, I don’t need to tell you I’m sure, an eight-month doldrums. For the last months I have pulled articles out like I was drawing my small intestine through my umbilicus. It was often painful to me, and if you bothered to read, it was likely gore to you.
In part, it is because your Fringe Editor works best with grist from the social and political world. Criticism is my soup as it is for commentators on both sides of the house. Increasingly, my criticism at the right is dulled by my criticism at the left; my disgust with the left mirrors my disgust with the right. As both sides grow less alike in position they grow more alike in demeanor and tactic. It’s become as a marriage in which the partners are locked in mutual destruction oblivious to family friends and neighbors. It’s impossible to choose a middle any more; you’re fish or you’re fowl regardless your hair, make a choice. I simply can’t work in this dysfunctional society.
That’s no excuse for not writing, though, because alienation is good stuff in the right hands. There is plenty to be alienated from; everybody goes too far today. The head of the Humane Society wants cows to go extinct, and ranchers with them; Texas makes it against the law to talk dirt about beef. Ecofreakos want to save everything that’s already clearly doomed, and the petroleum industry wants to imperil what’s left. War is horrible and making a profit on war is despicable; being a peace freak is witless beyond redemption. The parties whip the people into a frenzy of fear and outrage and the people are so fearful and outraged they want more and more fear and outrage until something is done about the nothing that someone is doing now. I’m just sick of it. As disappointed as I am in myself as a writer, I’m disturbed by readers’ willingness to accept any colorful and emotional dreck as news and information.
Even so, I’ve no intention laying down the pen, or keyboard. I’ll struggle to make ribald and profane sense of the nonsense of our age, and to amuse and bemuse and remuse if possible, you and myself until we can approach these troubled times with the ridicule they truly deserve.