Sunday, July 20, 2008

Addiction, Retreat, and Reboot

I'm not a very good writer. I'm not saying this to be humble or to fish for compliments. And I don't mean that what I write isn't worth reading or watching. To tell you the truth sometimes I listen to a monologue I wrote and I say "Damn! Damn that was good!" What I mean when I saw this, always when I say this, is that I'm not very good at sitting down and actually writing. I'm also bad at spelling and generally bad at grammar and punctuation...and editing. I'm a terrible editor in every way an editor can be bad at something. But when it comes down to sitting down and working, I am awful at it.

I can't get up in the morning and write. I'm groggy and fuzzy and I can't focus. I don't carry around a pen and paper with me everywhere I go. Unlike writing in the morning (which I think is a personal choice) not carrying around basic supplies is a character flaw. I used to, and I used to write poems all the time. Not good poems, rarely good poems, but for some reason it rarely even occures to me any more to even jot something down that is more than a to do list. I don't write daily. Well, I have since I got to New Orleans, but in day to day life I don't write every day. When I need to work on a peice I may spend hours circling my computer, putting it in front of me with all the tools I think I'll need and then I'll turn on the TV. I don't watch TV. I want to make that perfectly clear. I turn it on and then think to myself "Why aren't you writing? Why aren't you writing? Why aren't you writing?"

I did this a lot yesterday. I moved my computer from room to room, chair to chair, configured a writing area and then reconfigured it. Then I turned on the TV and proceeded to stare at the blank screen on the lap top for hours. I mean hours. When did I finally write something? When did the creature that is muse finally jump into bed with me and move my fingers as it sang it's song...3:30 in the fucking morning. It hit me like a lighting bolt. Like a fucking epiphany. Suddenly I was at my lap top in the dark, my fingers flying and in an hour and a half I had fifteen pages of workable dialog. Then I went to bed because I was too tired not to, but I knew I could have written for a little while longer. Maybe I should have.

Sometimes I think I should sleep all day and write all night. Sit up in the dark and work. I hate sleeping alone, I'm afraid of the dark and the unknown, I leave the TV on because I don't want to hear the noises I can't make sense of, I leave the light on so I don't have to worry about shadows. But I can't sleep with the noise of the TV. I can't sleep with any light on by light coming through the windows. I lay awake sort of registering the shows that are on late late, wishing I were asleep. Wishing I was a day writer. Wishing I had the satisfaction that all day I worked and my hands were sore and my wrists were sore and my fingers were stuck in a typing position. But instead I wait. I wait for the muse to come to me in the night.

I've never believed in writer's block. It's the wrong word for what it happening when I sit down and I have a hard time breaking through a barrier. In the movie "The Right Stuff" we see Chuck Yeager go up into the sky again and again and always he and the other test pilots are talking about pushing the outside of the envelope. Always they are working to break a record, a sound barrier, or a personal fear. Writing feels like that sometimes. I'm working fast and hard and a lot, but always on the edge I can feel that I'm getting to a point where either I wont know what will happen next and I push and push and push. Sometimes I feel that point coming and I work right past it like a speed bump, sometimes I don't feel it coming and it hits me like a brick wall, sometimes I feel it coming and I give up before I even get there. It's the envelope. The unknown. I am always pushing to work past and through it. Sometimes I just don't know how. Maybe that's just another way of saying writer's block, but I don't want to think of it as a wall. More like factor X. I am trying to solve for X and sometimes I just don't know the right equation.

I am right now working in a coffee shop. Community Coffee is not unlike Starbuck's or Seattle's Best or something along those lines. I wish I had one of these in my apartment. The light is just right, the air is cool, but not refrigerated. It is not busy in here, but it is not empty either. There are several people working on their laptops as well. A few who have been here longer than I have. Maybe I need to accept the vanity of writing and reading in public. 'Look at me! I have a laptop and I am working on it!" always felt silly, but it's productive at least. Unfortunately, I don't want to cultivate a coffee addition. It gives me a headache if I don't get it, it is expensive, I like the over sugared coffees that had pounds, I don't like the jittery heart racing feeling. And if I eat the wrong foods with coffee or after coffee my stomach feels funny and I have weird digestive issues.

Many writers cultivate additions because they are cultivating writing habits. Coffee in the morning with a notebook. Tea in the afternoon with the typewriter. Liquer in the evening at the writing desk. And cigarettes. So many cigarettes. Even I can imagine myself with a stick in my hand and a work table in front of me. When I need a pause to think about the words I can take a drag and breath in the next hit. Wait while the smoke pours out of me and then dive into the writing again. Taking a break to work on the pack and doing nothing else but thinking about the writing. My hands feel so useless when I'm walking and passing about the room working through a monologue. If only I had a cigarette in my hand to keep my hands and mouth busy.

But this is all ridiculous. I do not want to cultivate any of these habits but the habits of writing. I've never really been a disciplined person. I've always hopped that the discipline of others would somehow work it's magic on me. It worked in college when my room mate Tanya would work on school work. What else was there for me to do but work and study too? And Tanya was good at studying. Then it became a kind of competition. It might have had bad repercussions on our friendship, but that competitive nature that she instilled in me through her ardent work ethic got me through college and worked on me through grad school. But it hasn't worked quite so well for my personal work and art...or my personal life. I want to schedule out day. Get up at a certain time, sleep at a specific time. Eat this at this time. Need that at such and such time. And write. Write write write. But this is a place I don't know how to get to.

But this is what this trip is really for. How do I work? How do I become a writer who writes? How do I accept the way I need to work and ensure my life builds itself around that?

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