I have been toying with the idea of shutting down my blog. Smashing my finger against the “delete” button and watching all these words chase each other back to Nothing. All these hours of toil regressing back into an undifferentiated mass of unintelligibility: Y’s and W’s tripping over each other’s spindly legs in the mad rush, nihilistic A’s impaling themselves on I’s. Q’s becoming separated from U’s. Insidious gangs of E’s cruising the fracas with an eye for trouble. And rival O’s mowing down the lot of them.
A flick of my hand, and the whole mess of them would tumble back into obsolescence. It’s a dramatic thought, I guess, and one that begs the question of whether anyone would actually care if this blog were here tomorrow or not. I don’t want to let go. But I simply cannot abide the guilt of the increasing infrequency of my posts.
In my own defense:
My silence is not due to a lack of inspiration: I have a list 30 bullets long of potentially fascinating and hilarious essay topics, including: The illogic of Costco, Craig’s List as a modern metaphor for the banality of evil, and Funny traveler’s poop stories.
Nor is it writer’s block. As a newspaper editor, I churn out 14-15 stories every week-and-a-half or so. I write all day, almost every day. And I love it. My issue seems closer to the opposite of writer’s block, if there is such a thing: I have so many things to say that I am sort of rendered at a loss for words. I’m choking on ideas.
Sometimes, lately, I’ve felt my blog eyeing me with a quiet and rueful disdain. It makes me feel like I’m some kind of remiss lover, and I find myself penning all manner of contrite missives in my head, the kind that hint at dull regret without acknowledging any true wrongdoing: I know I haven’t written much lately. It’s not that I haven’t thought of you. I think of you all the time, in fact. It’s just that I no longer understand where you fit into my life. Where I fit into yours. It’s nobody’s fault, really…
It’s like that sick and sorry first moment when you stare across the bedcovers at a sleeping lover and realize that all the desire has gone from you. Maybe not completely, but it’s begun to trickle away, like water from a leaky faucet. After the whirlwind, this: waning fascination, passion slowly but deliberately rerouted to other, shinier things. I don’t have the time or the energy to give my blog the attention and affection it needs. I’m emotionally unavailable, maybe. I’m bored. There is a litany of excuses. But in the end, all of them come down to one thing: me, up too late, blinking into the darkness, pondering how to leave. I am sorely tempted to slip it a note onto the night table and tiptoe my way out of its life some dull gray dawn when the boredom and the resentment and the enduring and improbable sense of deep affection that still remains all become too much to bear.
Or maybe I’m more like an unfit parent. In journalism, page designers are ever on the lookout for “orphans,” or single lines of text that are left dangling on their lonesome when a sentence jumps from the bottom of one column to the top of another. They are considered a no-no because, well, they just look too sad sitting there all alone. They are awkward in their isolation, snippets of thought perched rigid and separated from the sentence or paragraph that is their birthright, their link to everything that makes the world intelligible. I harbor a lot of orphans in my head. Chunks of overheard conversations. Pretty words. Snappy punchlines that come to me in dreams, begging only for the proper windup and delivery. I store them in my head, scribble them across the backs of receipts and Post-its. Promise to nurture and grow them later, when only there is time.
Because for me, writing is less a process of creation than it is the benevolent and conscience-clearing act of herding up all of those lost children. In my neglectful stupors, I’ve permitted them to wander the webby recesses of my consciousness, unchecked and unwatched. Unfed, hair asnarl, they whine incessantly to me of my personal failures. I’m hungry. I’m lonely. Don’t you remember the day you found me on the edge of that magazine page? How cute I looked? How you had such plans for me?
Writing is like shoving some great semantic vacuum tube into one of the holes in my face and cranking the dial to full-screech. There is nothing more satisfying than listening to that busy whir as all those little orphans are sucked out of my skull and reimagined onto paper, given pretty shoes and nice sharp haircuts, given the families they so deserve and a place in the mess of things, finally, their wan little cheeks pinched to rosy red.
To me, there is nothing sadder in this world than unmet potential.
Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. It’s a dream I’ve been working toward since the age of five, when in a moment of grief I first wrested the contents of my head into word form and felt an astonishing flood of relief, of reprieve. My literary debut took the form of a heartbroken epistle to a dead finch. He’d been my first pet, the first thing I’d ever known and loved and cared for that had been taken from me. I’d discovered his fluffy little birdy body laying supine on the floor of the birdcage one morning before school, his eyes staring vacantly at the text of the crinkly, urine-stained newspaper page I’d used as a poop-catch liner. I had no words. I had too many words. I did the only thing I could think of. I wrote.
Writing has been a singular obsession ever since, the thing I valued above everything else. The thing I wanted no matter what.
Sometimes, the problem with getting what you want is, well, getting what you want. Today, I am whining about having no time to write because I am too busy, um, writing. All the time. At work, yeah, but also when I’m trying to read, when I’m trying to have a conversation with a friend, even when I’m sleeping. The journalistic bent of note-taking has hijacked my very soul. I’ve even taken to keeping a notebook my by bed, so often do I yank myself from sleep to scratch down an especially strange or wonderful literary revelation.
Sound great? It’s not. Consider my sizeable library of books and magazines. The margins of most of them are littered with almost-indecipherable markings. Notes deconstructing favorite passages. Rogue exclamation points or question marks, frown and smiley faces to indicate points of or agreement or contention. Clever turns of phrase circled. Pages folded over, a big fold to mark a big idea, a small fold to mark a word I might need to find later. It’s this elaborate personal code that has become so byzantine it is swallowing up every single analogue aspect of my existence.
Consider, also, my diminished ability to enjoy other people’s writing. It has progressed to the point where I am completely unable to read anything without a pen in hand. If, for example, I find myself seated on an airplane without a writing implement at my disposal, I am usually completely unable to read anything, even the creepy catalogues full of chin exercisers and velveteen slippers and cat toilet-training programs.
Because if I do pick up a paperback or a magazine, I will inevitably be struck by the familiar barrage of ideas, tangents and associations as my eyes move through each line. And, having no instrument with which to capture these whirring thoughts, I will be inevitably struck by deep anxiety and guilt. More orphans to herd, to worry over, to resent. And the whole thing will cause me so much stress that it’s easier just to lay back against the headrest and squinch my eyes together and remain ignorant.
In the end, I’ll leave it to you to decide: is my blog more a jilted lover or a forgotten child?
I can’t profess to know much about the suffering of orphans; the great tragedies of my childhood were finding that dead finch and being forced to eat my Honey Nut Cheerios with water once when we ran out of milk. (I was super pissed. It was disgusting. Try it sometime.)
Remiss lovers, well, let’s not get into it. Not this week, at least.
All of which brings me back to the question of my blog’s future. I mean, look at it. Just sitting there with that sour, bored expression. The mileage between posting dates growing farther between with each passing entry, like how freeway exits taper off when you leave a big city and gun it toward the suburbs, then the outer suburbs, then the outer outer suburbs, then the big Nothing that surrounds everything, on all sides, once you get far out enough to really see the way the world is shaped.
The opposite of writer’s block is, strangely enough, also writer’s block. And too much to say is apt to leave a person with precious little to talk about at all.