Archives for the month of: April, 2015

sometimes words don’t come
skittering sideways like crabs
but squat obstinate
(8.21.2008)

This is the second in a two-part series about writer’s block, blank pages, and the harsh inner critic we all face whether we’re writing or not. When we left off last time, here’s where we were:

Yep. The Blank Page and the Inner Critic? They’re in cahoots. Two cheese monkeys sharing cheap, shitty beers and stale pretzels in a dive bar at the intersection of Subconscious and Self-Esteem where the streetlight flickers on-off, on-off, on-off in a Morse Code SOS headed Uptown.

What a gig those two jokers have going…

Blank Page shows up first. Always. He is sure to grab a seat at the end of the bar. No matter how big a man Inner Critic thinks he is, he’s always second fiddle to Blank Page. Why? Because Blank Page shows up first and makes a power play of it. He picks the seats; Inner Critic has to follow his lead.

And follow he does.

Blank Page will have had at least one beer by the time Inner Critic shows up. Then he sits and kibitzes with the bartender and unwitting accomplice in this charade. A short, no-necked hack, the bartender serves up weak metaphors and overused phrases like pouring a lukewarm beer. Kinda flat, kinda bitter. Nothing good comes of the time these three spend together.

If Blank Page has the power in the beginning, by the end of the evening, he’s too blotto to hold a decent conversation (which in truth, he sucks at anyway), and Inner Critic has unleashed his vim and vitriol upon Blank Page and our no-neck, squat Bar Tender whom we’ve yet to give a name. It’s really pretty pathetic.

Outside, the flickering SOS streetlamp puts itself to sleep. No help having arrived in the swift form of inspiration.

Our no-neck, squat bar tender shoos the incapacitated duo out the door and, with a hammy-hand, turns the lock behind them.

Blank Page schlumps a half-block down Subconscious before turning down an alley and falling gracelessly behind a dumpster, after having heaved his final beer in a resounding splat.

Inner Critic, slyly kept most of his wits about him (he didn’t drink as much as Blank Page) fairly skips a few blocks down Self-Esteem where the neighborhood is being gentrified and lets himself into an immaculately well-kept, if uninspired, brownstone that’s been in his family for generations.

He sits down at his own typewriter, carefully pulls a piece of paper from the sheaf in the lower right desk drawer, rolls it into position, places his hands above the keyboard and waits… It only takes a moment for the connection and he’s off. His fingers typing as fast as the manual typewriter allow. He’s got a cadence to it so that the keys don’t bind up into a tangled mass.

It pours forth almost endlessly. A litany of course cut-downs and belittling drivel. He repeats himself, but that doesn’t matter. He just needs to keep going. To keep convincing the person on the other end of the paper, the reader, who is also today’s writer, that the effort is pointless. No good can come from writing. Why bother?

He continues tapping, into the wee hours of the morning until he makes one final, emphatic gesture on the keyboard and stops his typing. He yawns, laces his fingers together making a show of stretching his arms above his head, pulls the paper from the carriage, crumples it into a ball and throws it into a wire trash basket where it joins dozens of others.

Inner Critic yawns again and casually takes the cover, he’d forgotten to make use of last night (which is odd for him, he’s usually so meticulous!), and puts it on the typewriter. He bends to touch his toes as he stands, then takes the waste basket into the kitchen where he dumps it into a larger trash can, reminding himself to take that out on the morrow, for trash pickup is the day after.

He returns the wire basket to the deskside and heads up the stairs to his bedroom, passing the closed doors to guest rooms on the way. They’ve never been used. Nevertheless, he has the housekeeper change the linens regularly so they’re fresh and inspects the rooms from time to time to make sure they’re kept clean. He’s sure someday someone will want to stay. Possibly even Blank Page. One never knows. It could happen.

Whoopsy! missed the mark
sometimes it’s not the target
but what lies beyond
(4.2.2015)

I missed the mark on this one. I was aiming for something big, something clear, something very concrete. I launched my arrow and for months it was aloft, airborne and aimed at a very specific target. Yesterday, news of the arrow’s landing reached me.

Rather than the intended target, it had landed squarely nearby, in the obvious neighborhood of my goal. Uncannily close, and yet, not the mark. At all.

Humph. I wondered inwardly. What was that about?

There had been so much energy and excitement and vision. What I was aiming for had seemed so crystal clear, I felt certain it would be an absolute bull’s-eye, I could feel it.

As I pondered this, moving to retrieve my metaphorical arrow, just beyond the target, I took stock of my surroundings. It was a lovely place. Flowers bloomed on all manner of foliage I’d never encountered before. And yet… Something seemed familiar. What was it? There was a niggling in my consciousness.

I recalled a time I’d wholeheartedly pursued a goal. One that seemed completely far-fetched. So crazy that every time I’d written about it in my journal I could only seem to call it “absolutely ridiculous” and yet, I had pursued it. I’d launched multiple arrows to that target. Each one landed just past it. But I was compelled by something I couldn’t see, something deeper, something I didn’t try to name, but followed with a childlike joy that accompanies a sense that a wonderful discovery is just around the corner. As the last arrow thumped into the ground and not the target, I completely surrendered my intended outcome.

It just wasn’t meant to be, I told myself, by way of explanation and consolation. Yet, there was the energy that had gone into those arrows. Somehow I couldn’t believe that that powerful, exuberant energy had propelled my arrows to nothing.

Life went on, and a mere two months later there was a major shift in the area of my life where the target had stood. It seemed, those arrows, loosed with love and grounded somewhere beyond the target, had caused ripples on impact. Those ripples moved out and made major changes in my life, far beyond what I could have imagined and are still affecting my life today in positive ways.

Sometimes, I wonder now if most times, it’s good to miss the mark.