So you’ve gathered it’s been quiet around here lately. Perhaps the most ubiquitous topic for bloggers, aside from the Buzzfeed-esque “18 Reasons Why Something In Particular Rocks And/Or Sucks,” is the struggle with writing, in its many forms, whether it be the challenges in completing a manuscript and subsequently editing it to near-perfection and getting someone to pay to read it, or simply maintaining the often herculean effort of grinding something out with consistency of quality and schedule. The problem is the easiest thing in the world to do is not write, and there are innumerable distractions standing between us, the keyboard and the time required to produce. External factors such as the kid wants me to put together Lego with him, we have nineteen different errands to run, the laundry needs to be folded and put away, so-and-so is coming over, there’s a new episode of The Blacklist. Internal factors like I had a long day at work, I’m tired. I don’t feel like it today. I have nothing to say. I’m intimidated in living up to what’s come before, or the work of my peers (a frequent fallback for those of us who continue to be convinced despite copious evidence to the contrary that we’re Just. Not. That. Good.)
My writing teacher Lynda used to tell a story about the Muse. She reminded us that those who sit and wait for the Muse to arrive are more likely to have Godot show up first. You have to be willing to force your fingers to strike the keys in even the most random and nonsensical of motions to drag her goldbricking ass off her seashell and plop her down next to your page. Basically, the best way to get over not being able to write is to write. Even if what comes out in those initial phases is more suitable for flushing than publishing. There’s a terrific reason why “getting back on the horse” is such a lasting metaphor for the dogged resumption of effort, as standing next to said mount and staring at it expecting forward movement is the very picture of futility (as expressed in my never-painted Impressionist work, Silly Man Staring At Horse And Scratching His Head At Its Total Lack of Motion). I used to do show jumping when I was much younger, and as intimidating as some of those jumps might be, they weren’t going to get any less scary by circling them in perpetuity. You just had to shake the reins, give your horse a kick and go full tilt. And man, did it ever feel good to clear them, even if on occasion the horse’s rear leg caught the bar and tipped it over. The occasional fault doesn’t diminish the nobility of the pursuit, nor does the fact that there are other more skilled jumpers out there who clear every obstacle without a single flaw. It is easy to let oneself be cowed into stasis by the seeming facility others have with their words, the depth of their respective vocabularies and their capacity for assembling the most breathtaking imagery from limitless reserves. Show me a writer who isn’t insecure to some degree – even Franzen-sized inflated egos have many strategic holes leaking helium. But the choice is either succumb to that self-imposed pressure and never create anything again, or persist with stubbornness and get better by doing more and trying new things. Write poetry, song lyrics, short stories, reviews, lengthy op-eds on whatever issue-of-the-day made you stop and think about it for a minute or two. Eventually you find your wheelhouse, and once you do there’s no stopping.
In The King’s Speech, a movie I absolutely adore, King George V (Michael Gambon) rues the rise of the importance of radio communications in monarchical affairs, claiming that “in the past all a King had to do was look respectable in uniform and not fall off his horse.” In the modern era, the opportunity to pull a Salinger, to create one lasting work and fade from the collective pages yet retain relevance, is a distant memory. Our information-driven age is a ravenous monster consuming and digesting information as fast as, and in some cases faster, than it can be produced. To vanish voluntarily from the zeitgeist for even a few days at a time is to invite the chorus of “I can’t wait for his next” to change its refrain to “Whatever happened to?” and eventually “Who was that again?” Laurels are not rested upon easily, nor should they be. Whatever the circumstance, you have to stay on the horse.
So as I climb into the saddle, I look ahead. What can faithful readers expect? Well, I’m going to see some pretty big-ticket performers over the next month so there will be reviews. The recent political tribulations both at home and down south have provided plenty of fodder for some (ill-?) informed opinions. We may look back at some classics and cast our spotlight on up-and-comers we find worthy of attention. We may talk about being a dad, approaching 40, dreams of the future and regrets of the past. The usual staples of dissecting Aaron Sorkin and dissing spam. Laughter and tears and occasionally pretentious meandering. But above all, there will be heart. Always heart. Because what is the written word really other than the beats of a human heart transformed into elegant strokes of ink?
Hi-yo, Silver. Away.