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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

At a loss for words

Funny thing about writing: it’s involuntary


My word: this is not a rewrite of an existing post, but an exercise in facing the page from the start (and restart) . . . scratching and clawing memory back to the day my hard drive crashed and left my words dangling in cyberspace: 
There are times (just like this) that I’d rather be (outside pulling weeds, in the shower scrubbing grout, in the kitchen scouring pans, in the car driving) anywhere but here, doing anything but this –staring back at a blinking curser on a blank page.  Writing. Or trying to. 
Writing. Or thinking about writing is not always (or ever) a pleasant diversion for me. I am a master procrastinator.  A fidgeter.  A coffee-drinker. A refrigerator raider. A long shower-taker.  A dawdler.  I will take any possible detour from a keyboard, any excuse at all to delay sitting down to write.  Yet here I am, lining up words on a page, writing: this.
As if this were important. As if this were the only “real” writing assignment I have waiting on my desk this afternoon. 
Is writing a gift? Or a curse?
I write for a living.  Trouble is, I don’t live to write.  And therein lies the difference between a mechanic and an artist.  I am a mechanic.  I construct, edit and fix things for others.   That is - until I turn to my own “assignment." To fill the page of a blog,   I am painfully free.  To write as I choose.  If I choose. To write 'til done.  
The irony here is that I am struggling to the finish line, even with this little bit, as I rewrite what was written so freely and taken so abruptly when my monitor went to grey screen, signal of a fatal hard drive crash. 
Now: starting from the top of a blank page, writing this for what it’s worth, I boot up my own memory to recover the words I lost in the hard drive. (Damn my Mac.  Damn Apple, Damn Steve in his grave, Damn it all.) Finding the words that seemed to flow so easily yesterday is like picking through the wreckage of a tornado. Oh, here’s the picture frame, but where’s the picture?
The hard drive has been replaced, but yesterday is gone.  And so is my data, leaving only a thin residue of words that were once written down on the page. Words that are written down are concrete.  Tangible. Definitive. Workable. Evidence of what you were thinking, feeling, trying to convey.  Words written down can be edited. And improved. 
Words in limbo, without the page are but fleeting thoughts.  A writer without a page is just a mental doodler. A dreamer.  An  im-post-er. 
Losing a page out of memory is a terrible thing.  Now where was I?
On with the story. . .
The lines come and go. Fade in and out of mind. In short bursts of energy or long strings to untangle.  Slowly the gist comes back, but the order is gone.  Every minute is a different construction, a differing puzzle to piece together. I can only imagine in utter terror what living with Alzheimer’s must be.  Losing words, losing people and places,  losing peace of mind.  Ah, but I digress. The mind wanders. . .
Back to writing: this. Word-by-word, line-by-line.  As Our Lady of Writer’s Block, Anne 
Lamott would say… “bird-by-bird,” I lock and load paragraphs, brick-by-brick, 
building tight little walls on the page.  
Will they hold, will they be enough to sustain interest in this. This peculiar metalog.  And 
have I just coined the term?  No. Apparently not. According to my quick google-search a 
metalog is a next generation reasoning system, replacing syslogd and  klogd so that 
logged messages (such as this) can be sent according to their facility, urgency, program
name and/or Perl-compatible expressions?  Whatever that means. 
 Curioser and curioser 
Now falling through the rabbit hole, with some pseudo literary illusion to Lewis Carroll, I am intent on writing to the bottom of this virtual page, wherever that may be.  Slogging through the blog. . .  I  suddenly note with more consternation that my cursor  - oh no - has just frozen on the page, and that I am thwarted once again.  


My mouse is blinking but not actually computing.  Drats!  My mouse has died. Really.   In spite of its most elegant Apple wireless design, in spite of its new batteries, in spite of my desire to smash it against the wall, my not-so-trustworthy mouse has taken its leave and with it has robbed my command over the page.  


Hours later, (don’t ask for details) it would seem the universe - or technology at its worst - has conspired to keep me from ever reaching the end of this blog.  I am back, in fact, at a new loss for words. Back to my original subject of detours and delays, a writer interrupted.  For one more day.
And yet, I persist.  Writing involuntarily.  In the gloaming of the day, as the afternoon light has shifted, I can physically feel my enthusiasm wane to finish this page. (In Alzheimers patients, this confusion and depression is clinically known as sundowning. )  
And yet I go on.  Beckett-like now.  Involuntarily,  I have reached my conclusion: 800 words on the page.  I’d say that’s enough. Wouldn’t you?




Remedies for Blogger's Block


For those still interested.  On the subject of writer’s block and writers gainfully writing I offer my list of favorites, and the best of reading.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
(Essentially a Ten-Step program, training (or tricking) the mind and hand in free-writing “morning pages” every day. ) 

On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Crisp, clean non-fiction.  I’d kill for his clarity. 

On Writing by Stephen King
52 novels.  What does Stephen King know that you don’t. 

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
Gorgeous, lyrical prose and the cruel truth:  “This writing that you do, that so thrills you, that so rocks and exhilarates you, as if you were dancing next to the band, is barely audible to anyone else.”

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on the Writing Life by Anne Lamott
Generous.  Inspiring. Manic. Mildly neurotic.  Her mantra still holds me. Start small. Be tenacious, and take it bird by bird. 



Writing Down to the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
"The secret of creativity is to subtract rules of writing, not add them." 


Photos: Vhenoch
Book jackets:  Amazon
Thanx for reading.

  

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