OBSTRUCTION

Here, idyll.

Surf in the distance, its soothing pianissimo thunder punctuated by the occasional foreground car.  Ultramarine sky.

But not one idea has done more than hover like a seagull over the shoreline. No stories, insights, flashes of inspiration. A brain made drowsy by a surfeit of summer. Or other things.

I’m a nighttime person, generally. Not that I sleep in. Middle-aged aches and a querulous bladder argue against bedly indulgence. So often the time after the boy and his mum head bedwards is when I imagine writing. Thinking fuzzied by the mealtime libation, ideas fogged by alcohol and the muddy lethargy that comes from watching summer sport on TV. An evening person, perhaps, but self-sabotage arises locally—a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Australian Open tennis evening sessions.

Lack of discipline is the most common get-out clause for writers trapped in a low orbit. As I trek through Irvin Yalom’s recently released memoir—a hero, I hate him—and read about his ‘mornings writing and afternoons exploring’ (Bali, Seychelles, Paris, Lake Como, Holy Homer, what a life) I recognise that under my sneering envy of his privilege lies an uncomfortable truth. I’ve never been willing to claim the keyboard. Really make a commitment and shoulder whatever sacrifice is required. The recent Rearview Mirror series at Vinyl Connection is my first attempt at greater-than-weekly writing in almost five years. Pathetic.

The surge of envy is entirely equal to the slough of self-hatred.

Self-confidence is vital in any endeavour. Somehow the ‘I can’ voice must overcome the stabs of doubt and the whispers of ineffectuality else the child is stillborn. Dead before arrival. Often thoughts and ideas appear on my inner screen like distant fireworks—brief explosions of light and muted cracks, low on the horizon and soon extinguished. Reading how Yalom spends time before sleep pondering and playing with plot and story ideas for the next day’s writing gets me thinking (again) about the ephemeral nature of my own sparks. A proper writer can bottle that lightning and tap it the next day like plugging into a wall socket. It’s not just practice, though that would help (as would a simple way to capture fleeting images). I remember lying outside at midnight in rural Jamieson, many years ago, sharing the rug with a friend as we gazed up at the Milky Way. She always seemed to be looking in the right place to see the meteorite. My sightings were peripheral; by the time my eyes flicked to the silver pencil-trail it was gone.

Yearning to decorate the sky, yet so muddily earthbound.

Brainbound, more accurately.
How to interrogate this process, despite its crushing familiarity.

An idea comes.

A writing idea, ‘cos that’s my thing.

Then something shuts down. Like a clamp, like a blanket. Like the night of an impenetrably empty space. As Piglet put it so eloquently, ‘A great big… Nothing’.

Invoking Pooh’s timorous wee friend is no accident. For all my ability to channel Owl-like pomposity and nihilistic Eeyore pessimism, it is the ever-fearful Piglet who is my enduring talisman.

An aside. I’m recalling the story where Piglet gets a bath—much against his wishes—and is highly uncomfortable until he has escaped and rolled himself in sufficient dirt to recover his familiar grubby persona. That feels a bit like me and therapy, to be honest.

Back to the brain. The shutting down syndrome. It’s a cerebral trauma response, where overload leads to stasis. Nothing revelatory there; the process is one I’ve been working through myself and with clients for decades. (Three ironic cheers for The Wounded Healer!). But we are not veering off into a psychological paper for two reasons. Firstly, I’m not remotely well-read enough on emerging research in neuropsychology to offer anything helpful, and secondly, I don’t want to. Correction: I am not able to. Even this level of disclosure has a part of me quivering with terror.

What’s to be done? Is this brain plaque capable of being dissolved by therapy and (or?) other healing processes?

Or writing? Around twenty years ago I purchased a book called Journalling For Joy. Ten years ago I took it out of the paper carry-bag. Still haven’t opened it though.

It feels like a race against time. Enough healing to write—really write, according to the desire of my crumpled heart—before the natural and unavoidable ageing process dusts away vocabulary from the mind’s blackboard, leaving only vague smears of regret… that’s the goal, I guess. Avoid regret.

Unless, of course, there’s a future in writing about not writing?

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20 thoughts on “OBSTRUCTION

    • There is little that isn’t made much, much better by a bottle of Marlborough Sav Blanc, Jeff. Except, maybe, cogent thought.

      The receding lifetime is most likely part of the problem. One even good wine struggles to address. But thanks anyway. I appreciate your dropping by.

      Like

  1. That’s a brilliant piece Bruce. Campfire worthy. I like the firework imagery. For me it’s been a series of experiments, how can it be anything else? You write beautifully; write more and perhaps it will be more beautiful, to whatever end you imagine or it takes on, IRREGARDLESS 😋

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I empathize: it’s a constant struggle, isn’t it? Believe in what you have to say; don’t self-censor. That’s always been a challenge for me: I’ll get one or two sentences down and immediately begin obsessing about them: not good enough, not the the right word(s), it’s awful!, why would anyone think this is interesting? For all of the many, many moments of agita and hair-pulling, when something, i.e., an idea, finally clicks and the words start flowing, I feel completely alive…push toward that feeling. It’s there. And that feeling translates into great experiences for your readers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Beautifully said. It’s interesting, isn’t it? One of the things I enjoy most about your posts is the sense of crafting and polishing. To produce that you need to return, challenge, sand and sift. Yet the energy of spontaneity is very attractive (when it’s there!).

      (I’m delaying catching up at Augenblick until I have wi-fi (rather than phone ‘hot spot’)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The writer’s angst that so many of us feel is perfectly and poignantly described in your post. I guess being able to write – and you can definitely do that – is only half the equation. There has to be the desire and willingness to push through the fear and sometimes drudgery of putting pen to paper (or, more likely, fingers to keyboard.) Been there myself many times, but now that I’m on the other side of 50 – and watching as my Mom’s grasp of language diminishes with Alzheimer’s – I feel a sense of renewed urgency. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Urgency is a great word (from the ‘wrong’ side of 50) and captures something often fluttering in the background.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and responses Anna. My mother lost language completely in the last months, but prior to that had only yes and no… and muttered ‘shit!’ when distressed. A difficult journey that somehow adds to the impetus to write oneself.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I often find writing a bit of a struggle these days, Bruce. Blogging was something I started to try motivate myself to write a bit more and also challenge myself to write something other than lyrics or pieces of poetry. But, I don’t write much at all. Or I write too much and spend too much time editing it to the point I just give in, cause it’s no fun and I don’t feel it. Which is key, isn’t it? The feeling it. That and finding something you feel is worthwhile sharing. Or does that even matter? Cause everything is worth sharing, isn’t it? Cause we all find different things of interest… so there’s always someone wanting to read about that time you bought salt and vinegar crisps when you were actually wanting sea salt flavoured.

    Liked by 2 people

    • There are some challenging ideas there, James, and no mistake. Overworking the piece (be it song lyric or post), finding the meaning (or feeling) you hope to convey, getting over the ‘hump’ (whatever causes it). All worth a conversation over a glass of something I reckon.

      As for The Crisps Crisis, I think you’re nicer than me, mate. I’d rather eat the wrapper than read daily drivel, and I suspect the only people who would read a crisps story would be those desperate for you to read THEIR crisps story.

      Liked by 1 person

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