Back in December I suffered from that she-devil known as “writer’s block.” You’d think — considering the nature of writer’s block and who suffers from it — that someone, somewhere along the line (a poet, a journalist, an alcoholic Harvard professor) would have coined a more poignant term for the thing. I bet the French have a pretty term for it. But writer’s block is writer’s block is… you get the picture.
Anyhow, the she-devil struck again and for the last five or six weeks the paralysis and paranoia that come with the territory overtook me. I’m pretty decent at hiding the psychological evidence, so if you’ve seen me lately you may have thought everything was hunky dory in my soul but meanwhile all kinds of annoying inner voice crap has been ricocheting around in there (“you suck,” “you lost it,” “Snooki got a book published and Drew Barrymore gets a second chance at directing” etc, etc). Deep, dark thoughts like this plagued me as I struggled with what the hell to write about next in my absolutely hilarious, knee-slapping saga of unemployment. Reality TV? Crazy ass coffee shop people who make me feel sane? The ever-hysterical species known as Great White sharks? My Californication obsession? Then it hit me like a dull, throbbing headache… what the hell. If I’m stuck and need to conquer the she-devil I’ll just sit my sad ass down and write about things like David Duchovny shows in an attempt to silence the Medusa in my soul and get something — anything — written. Again, I hope it entertains you. And for any uber-hardcore feminists out there who feel bothered that I refer to writer’s block as a female? Well… I just don’t give a hot damn. In my imagination, writer’s block is an ugly, mean ass chick. With snakes on her head. Like Medusa.
So, for the second and (hopefully) final time, I hereby present to you:
More Useless Ramblings That I Hope Will Conquer My Scary Writer’s Block and Make You Smile
Hit the Jump to continue reading Bureaucracy for Breakfast vol. XVI: Writer’s Block Part Deux…
“Of course we believe in imaginary creatures that no doubt lay in wait in our souls, and look like naked she-devils with snakes on their heads…”
A hero ain’t nothing but a sandwich
If you’ve never seen Californication (the show that turned Fox Mulder aka David Duchovny into a “sex addict”) I’ll give you the quick rundown. It’s about an alcoholic, womanizing writer (is there any other kind? Oh yes, the kind who only sip barley tea and write easy listening poetry for journals only read by other barley tea aficionados) who can’t write. This dude has a paralyzing, almost terminal case of writer’s block. He was a big time “serious” novelist (think Russell Banks or Chuck Palahniuk) who made a mint, had a novel turned into a movie, lost the love of his life and basically drinks, sleeps around, and nourishes the chip on his shoulder with self-pity and bile. Even a Garden Tour-worthy Venice house can’t get this dude out of his funk. Sounds like a laugh riot, right? It kinda is. I refused to watch the show for ages because, being the always stubborn and occasionally highfalutin person I can be, I convinced myself that the show was sexist and that only loser males would look up to a character like Hank Moody. With some coaxing I got over my pretentious ways and started watching and quickly got hooked. Yes, Hank Moody suffers from all kinds of writer stereotypes (loves NYC and hates LA, wears all black, smokes and drinks and fucks like he’s walking the plank, and hates himself therefore he can’t write… or can’t write because he hates himself? Probably both). Instead of slugging a bottle of Jack and hopping into bed with a hot kleptomaniac in a silicon-filled bikini a la Hank Moody when writer’s block strikes me, I just kind of silently stew and compare myself to Snooki until I find myself rolled up into a little psychological ball in the corner of my room. Like a sad, emotional roly-poly. It’s probably closer to the Larry David version of writer’s block than the Hank Moody/Charles Bukowski strain. Think of it as the Jewish strain, if that helps.
Whatever the strain, if you’ve dealt with this beast you know it ain’t fun, and if you’re fortunate enough not to have the soul crushing urge to try and make a living writing stuff that people think is good rather than crappy, you most likely think this whole writer’s block thing is (besides whiny), basically, like Medusa — a made up creature that only an infant or an adult dimwit would fear. But writers make crap up and have few ties to the logical world that more highly functioning people inhabit so… of course we believe in imaginary creatures that no doubt lay in wait in our souls and look like naked she-devils with snakes on their heads. I know I got one of those bitches roaming around in my psyche, and she’s highly trained in psychological warfare. Her main ammo is Snooki Polizzi. And it works.
A few months back I cheated on my usual coffee shop office and abandoned it for a “cooler” spot with better music and less overly chatty oddballs. I didn’t miss my nemesis — the guy who always wanted to “go halfsies” on sandwiches and who created a cult-like Facebook group for the coffee shop that I wanted no part of — and I didn’t miss the easy listening reggae that the employees failed to realize was such a serious auditory offense. But over time, like all the best rom-coms, the things that seemed new and exciting and shiny about my new coffee shop lost a little of that initial shimmer and I started realizing what a good thing I had before. It took a giant tampon to show me the light. This tampon helped me realize that insane yet functioning strangers lurk in every coffee shop office, waiting to distract and divert your focus with their most likely totally made up stories about things like, oh, say… ginormous feminine hygiene products.
The horrible face of the curse that plagues me…
It was a sunny day and I sat typing away in my new, sexy coffee shop that played music like The xx instead of wilty songs like “Red Red Wine” which have no place in the year 2011. Anyhoo, I typed merrily away (it’s possible I was Tweeting instead of working on the Great American Novel but whatev…) until I felt a shadow fall across me and caught the scent of stale cigarette smoke and whiskey toppling into my personal space. I felt this person looking my way so I focused all of my attention and energy on my laptop screen.
“Hi!” He blurted in a scratchy lounge singer voice. What choice did I have? I looked over and said, “Hi!.”
This dude’s hair was drug store dye job black, and he looked like he’d been on a twenty-year bender. He seemed about fifty but who knows. He was drunk. It was 2 p.m. I was doomed. Once he started blabbing I realized my solemn duty as a scribbler was to accept my fate and hang on this guy’s every crazy-ass word, and record it in my mental notebook for possible later use. Besides, super wackjobs often make me feel sane and logical, so I drank in his crazy like a tonic.
“I fully expected to have nightmares about giant tampons chasing me that very night…”
The dude launched into tales of his theater background and of some chick who was the most talented thespian in his Ohio high school. She ended up on Broadway. I got the feeling real quick that he’d been obsessed with this phantom lady since puberty and lord knows if she knew he existed.
“She was a feminist, but not a dike,” he eloquently explained. But it was when he wistfully uttered the words, “those were the days of anorexia, when that was in vogue,” that I really settled in and listened. He said it as if he were in a large leather chair, holding a pipe and sporting a smoking jacket and cravat and saying, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” It was actually one of those times I really wished I had a spycam and a mini microphone. If this dude was to be believed, one of the highlights of his life was putting on a play with this anorexic feminist thespian that involved several gigantic tampons as the main props. “She made the tampons herself,” he recalled. “She was so talented.” He laughed and laughed and as his tale got weirder I felt my eyes vaguely crossing. It was too much. I felt like I was being sucked into a David Lynch-type world and it wasn’t fun it was just plain freaky. I started to think that maybe his crazy was contagious and struggled to find an out.
“I’m sorry,” I blurted. “I’m gonna run to the bathroom.” Sometimes, you just gotta cut the chord. He smiled; I smiled. I fled downstairs and prayed that when I got back he’d be in the midst of telling some other coffee shop person about giant tampons. My prayers were answered, because when I came back his bag hung on his chair but he was MIA. My eyes uncrossed eventually and I settled back into typing, but the bizarre scene he’d set in my mind kept haunting me. I fully expected to have nightmares about giant tampons chasing me that very night.
When I stepped out onto the sunny sidewalk about an hour later there he was, chatting it up with a dreadlocked dude at an outside table. It seemed like they were actually having a two-way conversation and I felt glad this guy managed to find a kindred spirit. My old coffee shop suddenly didn’t seem so bad. Then again, when I’m fresh out of material I may need to invest in that spycam, find that tampon-obsessed dude, and let him go to town.
Life is funny. As I write this back in my original coffee shop office that I haven’t been to in months, who waltzes up but my old nemesis. He’s sporting a new Hare Krisha-esque hairdo, hot pink sunglasses, and he’s giddily eating an ice cream cone. He’s very friendly. We discuss my recent yet short-lived affair with the place down the street and he admits he dabbled in those waters too before realizing it was too “hipster.” I agree. He then says, “Well I’ll be right over there… watching you type.” I giggle nervously. “Just kidding,” he says before leaving me with a parting thought: “By the way, it’s free cone day at Ben & Jerry’s, you should go.” I think I will. Crazy is as crazy does.