The problem, if anything, was precisely the opposite. I had too much to write…Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys
Have you ever gone back to read something you wrote in the past? Something at least decade ago, when the world felt like it had more promise. This is something I do whenever I’m stuck, which these days feels like a constant for me. Blame it on the distraction, or blame it on my inability to focus on any one thing without my mind bouncing around walls of my cerebrum.
As a writer – and I use this phrase rather loosely these days – I’m not allowed to believe in writer’s block. They pretty much beat it out of you in college creative writing courses. And any other writer that I know tells me the same thing. I haven’t written a short story in some time. The last thing I wrote – aside from blog posts – was a revision of the gravediggers story, something I’ve been toying around since the Bush administration.
Back in those days – the early 2000s – I kept long hours into the night just writing. Long hand stories scrawled on special loose-leaf paper. I kept a binder of these stories, which would later become known as my Nietzsche tales – despite them having nothing to do with the German philosopher outside of a quick reference in one story.
At that time of my life, I suffered from what is known as the midnight disease, a term I learned from reading Michael Chabon’s 1995 novel, Wonder Boys – which was adapted into a major motion picture five years later. Both the movie and the film had an impact in my life as I accredit them as the driving force behind going college and majoring in English.
I spent hours at night, scribbling titles on the page – a habit that several people would chastise me for, even though I explained the title acted as a summary of what I wanted to write and rarely – if ever – made it to the final draft. For instance, “The Gravediggers” was once known as “Ash Wednesday” and the story entitled “Amie’s Teeth” became “Reading Nietzsche Naked.” If not the handwritten stories, if you ventured into my home in the middle of the night, you would be greeted by the click-clacking of my typewriter.
A few years ago, the assistant director of the library approached me and asked when I’d be publishing a book. He met through the poetry readings we used to host at the library. I’d always been described as a promising writer by those who’d emceed them. And I wondered the same thing. When had I stopped writing? Stopped putting thought to paper and just didn’t care about what the outcome was because I could always go back and revise, fix what was broken and expand on what worked.
Much like Professor Grady Tripp, I find myself with an overload of things to write about. But unlike the character, I just don’t write. While he wrote page after page of his Wonder Boys novel, I can’t write three sentences without backspacing them to oblivion.
And no longer do I stay up at night with the urge to write. No longer do I stop in the middle of work to jot down an idea. The ideas float over my head, but have no ambition or motivation to pluck them out. In my drafts there is a review pending. There is a short essay about Columbia House/BMG music clubs. There are a slew of unfinished posts – one of them being that penis post I promised several years ago.
One my desktop there are unfinished The Call of Cthulhu scenarios tucked away among video game icons and opening lines to unfinished tales. I need to relocate that edge that kept me writing in my twenties and return to that world. Because with all the ideas spilling from my imagination, the only things I write today are blog posts complaining that I’m not writing enough.
And the occasional puppet show and short story for work.