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Tough Love

November 22, 2008

Yesterday I sat with a friend who is a gifted writer, but isn’t writing and has been sharing with me for months and months all his PLANS and IDEAS and THOUGHTS about his writing, other people’s writing, and writing in general.  I won’t say all the things–the BIG LIFE things–he has gone through in order to save him from his writing.  Finally, after spending another lunch listening to his MACHINE OF THOUGHT, I stopped him and said more or less: BUT WHAT ABOUT SITTING DOWN AND ACTUALLY WRITING?

What?

For those of us who have been seriously blocked at times–and man, I have been there and can still be there–sometimes the hardest thing to do is to just DO the work ANYWAY (see the first two years of this blog).  I can tell you that when I was blocked I was NOT short on ideas, inspiration, or plans, what I was short on was patience, humility, and action.  I loved the IDEA of creating in a concrete way, but for the longest time I was not willing to be bad or a beginner again.  I was in love with my own history as an artist–the times I was flowing with work or living what I perceived looking back as an idyllic time.  I combed over my songs, my poems, my art that I had completed like precious, frozen love affairs that I could not leave behind.  The truth was I just needed to sit down and DO.  What this required was willing to feel like a complete loser, to be boring, to be really BAD, and to live with the shame and pain of leaving behind my perfect, frozen past, and admit to where I really was–as imperfect and unromantic as it was.
I am living one of those flowing periods, but I know–like any long term relationship–there is the potential for it to stall again, to be feel a sense of emptiness and without magic.  I have learned that a certain kind of amnesia can come over me at the oddest times, and I will forget the easiest solutions over and over again.  My brain is so CRAFTY this way, and then I will remember and think *EUREKA!* only to forget all over again.
I kept thinking that if I mastered something, it wouldn’t happen again, but that’s just part of the reuse.  I know of some people–famous people–who have created what some might consider THE GREATEST art and are now struggling to get back on the horse.  I mean, where do you go when you’ve reached the HIGHEST PEAK?  You have to sit down and be a beginner, be bad, be bored, have humility and work in the dark pit of doubt–like every other slob.  Nobody escapes being the poor slob.
  Ways in which blocks can manifest themselves:  I need to do more research, I need more inspiration, a new place to create, more coffee, chocolate, a new place to live, more time, a new job, etc.  Well, maybe you do, but when does that end?
Here’s another way to tell if you are blocked:  You have to TALK about your creation A LOT.  I learned that when I am actually DOING I shut the hell up (hence the decrease in blog entries).  I’ve been surprised by how HARD it is to talk about my projects when I am actually doing them.  I used to listen to authors or artist say witty awesome things about their work and fantasize HUGELY about doing the same thing, but when people ask me about things right now I just feel LAME and STIFF and unable to speak adequately to what I am making.  Maybe that’s for the better.  I’d be wasting my valuable resources of energy talking about it.
I believe life is magical, but sometimes the most magical things are the most ordinary and boring like cold, hard, action.  I told my friend yesterday that in order to get to the romantic magical part of it again, he needed to be willing to go through the dry, MEANINGLESS parts too.  A commitment is not a single moment, it goes on and on and on.  It may seem impossible, I know, but this is the toughest kind of love–to show up when it gets hard and say this means enough to me to try and have that be enough.

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