So, am I a writer, or not?
Here we all are, stuck in our homes for months or potentially years as a result of this pandemic shit-storm that overtook the world like a global tsunami and any writer worth their byline would/should be relishing this forced containment as the ultimate opportunity to sit down, clear one’s mind, and produce the opi (opuses?) that we as writers dream of and fantasize about.
Instead, I sit here stuck, blocked if we must use the literary terminology, unable to print words, organize thoughts; unable to even clear enough space in the clutter that is my brain to formulate opinions or opine on solutions. Why?
It could be as simple as fear.
Fear of this unknown miasma we are all free-floating around in. Fear that we might contract this disease and suddenly our use-by date will be up; no need to “do” anything more other than engage the DNR clause we crafted years ago and say a hasty farewell to our friends and loved ones. Why write? Why bother?
Or is it a deeper fear?
Fear that we, the generation that was going to change the world, has failed to exact any real, substantive, lasting redirection of the cultural will that we were so sure we could/would bend towards the better. There’s nothing to see (or write about) here. We are so totally consumed in the societal ill-will that we are frozen; unable to publicly protest in the streets safely as in olden days, post-scripted into a media-mush of hashtags, postings, blog-ish misbehavior, and impotent, on-line, protestations. Who are we and how did we get here? Amidst this onslaught of horror, misinformation, lies, manipulations, and misdirection how do we see ourselves moving in any direction, no less forward?
Who are we now that we’re alone? Even alone together?
This butt-plug of the brain seems to be somewhat universal, but I sincerely hope it is not contagious or long-lasting. I have spoken with many writers I know and without exception they are in similar head spaces; isolated in their respective geographic locales but even more so, alone in their inability to roto-root their creative conduits into normal peristaltic rhythms and put into words the complete and utter disbelief that is our collective truth; we are fucked. For the foreseeable future we are where we are…right this moment.
The terminology surrounding our plight is all tinged with a negativity that permeates our cellular DNA: locked down, quarantined, holed-up, isolated, social distanced. Can anyone expect to be creative under these circumstances? Sure, there have been writers that chronicle the ills of society but usually within the lens of a rearview mirror; Toni Morrison springs to mind as do many others but almost without fail, they have the benefit of a lived-life that has a backwards eye-tilt and sees more clearly the results and thus the way forward. What we have, here and now, is a hot mess. One with little fact, almost no experiential memory for, and not even a breath of an idea of how we (the Royal is intentional) are going to move beyond this pool of puss and into (back to?) something resembling our former selves and those lives that we used to live.
For those of us “of a certain age (68)”, there is the added specter of our own personal sliding scale of life expectancy; the abacus is clicking and it is only moving in one direction with the sum is our end of calculating….anything. There is a hopelessness that invades our thoughts as we try and imagine our lives in the amorphous future, the “when we reopen our society once again” blather that neglects in large part to take into account the growing bits of evidence that we may never be, as a people, as a world, as Earth, whom we once were.
That realization wallops us up against a hard wall of truth.
After having lived and worked and survived all the various stages of life and the insults to our bodies and minds that we have managed to power through over our long lives, our Golden Years (at least those that we can see in the looking glass) seem now to be quite different than our imaginings when we were 20, or 40, or even last New Year’s. Are we to accept and acquiesce to the notion that this limited and limiting life we are all now relegated to is it? Or some version of “it”?
How do we well and truly live while there is so much dying…and fear of dying?
In searching online tools for writer’s block there are some inanities that I thought worth mentioning. On a site titled “27 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block Once and For All” number seventeen struck me as perfectly in tune yet insanely out of touch with our current situation at the same time:
Technique #17. Goof Around on Facebook, Linkedin, or Instagram
Seriously. Isn’t that all that any of us are already doing? Locked down with only a modem and a keyboard we search anywhere and everywhere for some universal truths. Some fact we can hang our futures on. We do this to the exclusion of quiet reflection and thoughtful analysis. Seriously.
Technique #18. Start in the Middle
Already there. In the middle. Thrust here by circumstances and held there like prisoners in permanent solitary confinement. Again, no chance that that helpful hint will unblock the drain and let the sewer drain freely.
And so, we are left with only ourselves and maybe a teaspoon, a tiny tool that those inmates would use to chip away at an escape tunnel perhaps to gain their freedom one day. But their potential freedom, like our potential future, is one fraught with uncertainty and we, like them, will forever be looking over our shoulders for “the man” to catch up with us and toss us back into solitary once again only prolonging our life sentences.
Writing used to make me feel good. Empowered. Productive. It now seems only to promote a deep and unsettling sense of hopelessness. As the news and the numbers continue to grow, the projections becoming more ominous hourly, there seems little chance that I, personally, can fracture this snow globe of an encasement and have my mind wander out beyond my skull. I fear for myself and my sanity. I fear for my friends and our regional world. I fear for the loss of my remaining years; having them relegated to “gatherings” of two or three people.
Conversely, I have been uber-productive in these early days of lockdown. The house and gardens have never looked better! All those onerous chores that I procrastinated in favor of movies out, friends in and dances and dinners have now been tackled and reined in. The real question that depresses and hence blocks me the most is not having an answer or even a glimmer of a way forward to the question of:
Will anyone ever feel safe enough to come enjoy my life, with me? Will even I?