I have just been made aware by an astute reader of this blog that five weeks have passed since my last post. I was not aware that it had been that long since I have a tendency to get caught up in the gusty winds that swoop through my mindscape- often rendering me unaware of the rhythm of passing days. Weeks blend together and before I know it a month has passed. My five-week absence from this blog is simply the result of a bout of writer’s block. My friends and acquaintances all seem to be fortunate enough to be suffering from minor colds and flu’s, while I have had to suffer the long-lasting pangs of writer’s block. I imagine that not being able to come up with any cohesive piece of writing for a writer must be akin to the suffocation an asthmatic feels in the middle of an asthma attack. However, I have every hope that soon this block will dissipate and I will be re-immersed in the process of story writing. For now I thought it appropriate to post a short story that I wrote a few years back on the subject of writer’s block. I tried for a year to get this story published, without any takers (after just re-reading it I can see why, but it holds a dear place in my heart). So for the past year or so it has sat in the darkness of my desk drawer, until now.
I have been staring at a blank page for most of my life. I have done all I can with not just my left hand but also my right. I have tried yoga and long walks. My therapist recommended to me that I take up singing. So I have done this each day. I have taken cooking lessons, taken up meditation, started burning incense, moved to the woods, eat vegan, and participate in S&M parties. I do a head stand every morning for thirty minutes and chew sugarless gum throughout the day. Still there is little evidence of a writer on the paper before me.
Since the age of six I have dreamed of becoming a writer. My parents took my sister and I on a family outing in Napa Valley. As we were driving along a desolate country road I noticed a small cabin. A man sat smoking what looked like a pipe on the porch. I asked my father about who that was and he said, “probably a poor hermit or failed writer.” From that day forward I knew what I wanted to do with my life.
Thirty-three years later and I am still unable to write. People ask me what I do and I use the noun, writer. When I am asked if my work can be read I utilize the pronoun, aspiring. It is a course that I navigate with trepidation. “Will I ever write anything?” is a question that lingers in my head like a chronic migraine. It hurts. And every so often I take aspirin. Days before my father passed away I assured him that I would one day be able to make a living as a writer.
“But you don’t write.”
“I can’t but I will.”
”I try every day.”
”Son, when will you see?”
“When I write.”
“But you can’t write.”
“Son you can’t be a Writer if you don’t write.”
“I will write.”
My father passed away with a knot in his gut tightened by my incapability to pragmatically reason. Every day I look at a blank page and am reminded of my failure. I see emptiness and small circuitous hints of a letter. I have become so acquainted with the color of a blank page that I can tell time by the way it reflects shadows. Each morning, I sit at my desk to write my unfulfilled potential off the page. Still nothing comes. I sit there and breathe deeply. I straighten my back as if that will help awaken an idea. “Maybe, it will slip through my spine and out onto the empty page, and then there will be the story,” I think. A narration so profound, that my career as a writer will be unleashed. But my spine is tight from all my hunching and my right hand has been waiting to write a word since my left hand refused to wait anymore. “It is a lonely heart that has no hope,” my father once told me.
I visit my therapist in town twice a week. She is a skinny woman who suffered from anorexia most of her life. Years of struggle have carved lines into her face and make her an asset to those who face similar struggles. She slowly eats a banana while we commune. I am confident that she can help me because of her past. She always allows me to stay longer then my allotted fifty minutes.
“Have you been singing?”
”I sing every day, mostly in the shower or on a walk.”
“How does it make you feel?”
“Good, I forget about my Writer’s block.”
“Have you been thinking about new ways to live your life?”
“What have you decided?”
“To think less.”
“This is why I thought singing would be good.”
”It helps me to stop thinking.”
”It is your thoughts that keep you blue.”
“Do you still do head stands?”
“Do you still think about your father?”
“All the time.”
“One day you will change the story you tell yourself.”
“I want to write my story.”
After therapy, I drive my old truck back to the house in the woods feeling renewed and hopeful. The story that I tell myself is slowed down. The thoughts in my head are not as filled with failure and doom. There is space for better thoughts to appear. But the page remains blank. It sits there upon my desk like a neglected pet awaiting my return. I tell myself only a matter of time and I go to work doing other things. I keep myself busy with household chores and I keep introducing myself to strangers as a writer.
“Want a good story,” she said to me dressed in leather straps that barely covered her holly trinity (breasts, thighs and ass). I pictured it happening differently but decided to go along with it anyways. The party was filled with middle-aged voyeurs gathering around small dungeons set up with enough equipment to imprison the primordial god Eros. I followed her into a section called The Den Of Inequity and felt the air around my head grow warm. She told me her name but I have since forgotten. All I really remember is a small hole on the bottom of her foot that she told me was the result of an accident.
“You want to play, right?” she asked me, wanting to assure herself that I was certain about the consequences of my decision. “I want a story,” I replied with a hint of fear in my voice. I took off my shirt, pants and underwear and was dressed in leather briefs. ”I’ll give you the story of your, life pervert man,” she said as she strapped my wrists and ankles to a disinterested wooden board. After being lashed, electrocuted, stepped on, spit on, spanked, tied upside down, laughed at, called coward, whipped, humiliated and then applauded by a group of spectators- I got dressed and anticipated the story I may finally have to tell. I drove home quickly so as not to forget.
Nothing wanted to come out, despite the sores and bruises, which I hoped would help me to remember. Not even and, if or but. I struggled to remember any words that could describe the feelings that I experienced. All I seemed capable of thinking was “its got to be good.” There was once again no story to be written on the blank page. No words willing to lend themselves to the perfection that I demanded to describe my experience. It was as if words had renounced the man before he could even give them an opportunity to live. I was not frustrated but becoming hopeless again. In my head I wanted to live but on the page I could not exist. For one hour that evening I lay on my couch with ice over various parts of my naked body feeling like a failure.
“Why did you let her do those things to you?”
“You are my therapist, not my mother.”
“I understand but it is important that I know.”
“Because I wanted a story.’
”You wanted a story?”
“I thought that an experience would give me something to write about.”
“And did it?”
“And why do you think this is so?”
“I am not sure.”
“Maybe its because you can not stop telling your self the old story.”
“What old story?”
“The one we talk about here.”
“I do not understand.”
“The story of hopelessness, failure, guilt, worthlessness.”
”Maybe when this story goes away you will have a new story to write.”
That afternoon I went to my cooking class and then stopped at the market. In the evening I went to a yoga class and a bookstore. I purchase a popular book about water. The premise of the book was strange and had nothing to do with anything I had ever thought. It was a book written by a Japanese scientist who studied the ways that water molecules responded to thoughts. He photographed water crystals and studied how they formed in relation to various thoughts or words. He observed that positive thoughts or words formed beautiful water crystals while negative thoughts or words created ugly and deformed water crystals. His conclusion was that since human beings are mainly a collection of millions of water crystals, the thoughts we have and words we use create our health and disease.
For dinner I made a pizza and read the book by candlelight. Outside the silence was loud enough that I could hear it vibrating in my ears. I chewed my food without the sensation of eating and quickly made my way through the book. I thought about the story I told myself and noticed the scenes from my life that lined up in my mind as if on paper. It was a story of unfulfilled potential that went all the way back to my fathers remark: “probably a poor hermit or failed writer.” It was a negative unraveling, a self fulfilling prophecy that was born in me the moment that I decided to become a hermit and a writer thirty-three years before. My water crystals were destined to grow deformed. I went to bed that night thinking that my father had unknowingly put a curse on me. I talked about it the next morning in therapy.
“Do you think this realization is true?”
”Your writer’s block is the result of your fathers curse?”
“Maybe not a curse, but a negative imprint.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I am toxic water.”
”Yes, I am polluted and filled with deformed water crystals.”
“You read the book about water?”
“And what did it reveal to you?”
”That I can change.”
“So you see how the story you tell yourself creates your life.”
“Creates deformed water crystals.”
“Yes, and these deformed water crystals are you.”
“Change your story, change your life.”
“Easier said than done.”
I don’t know if the writer’s block will ever go away. I stand on my head every day and I try to think pleasant thoughts. Rather than seeing the block as a silence that is permanent I see it as an opportunity to express potential. Recently, I have been experiencing a strange phenomenon. When I wake in the morning and sit before the empty page I look into it with the determination of an artist. I am fascinated by its depth and dimension. Outlined in vague print is a vision of my new story, fully realized on the blank page. There it is before me, a story written in the most beautiful prose. It is a story that will continue on indefinitely until the end of all blank pages. Every writer that has ever lived and failed to write is apart of this story. It is the story of my entire life.