I got nothing. I’ve been staring at a blank screen for a while now. I wish it were metaphoric. I’d be happier. Maybe it is, and I will be happier when I realize it. As it is, up until less than one minute ago, it was literal. Then I had to start typing something. Might as well type about not typing.
Okay. That’s over. Now what?
I guess I’ll write about what I just wrote. Attention everyone, I wrote something earlier even though I had nothing to write. There. Okay, now just keep going. One sentence at a time. It’s got to lead somewhere. Hopefully fruitful, but at this point, I don’t give a rat’s ass. As long as I don’t delete all this, it’s a start. Let’s see if I delete it.
Nope. No such luck. Looks like I’m committed now. Here we go. I don’t feel good about this.
One of the things I liked about drinking was it helped me get over these stuck points. Drink enough and you become a fucking genius, and everything you write is brilliant. Until you read it in the morning. If you’re lucky, you might be able to salvage a paragraph here or a sentence there. Sometimes I would go back, into the scrap yard, and weld some loose, working parts together. I’d come up with something, and label the abomination, “Post-Post Modern Lit.”
Nothing left to do after that, but stand back and see if the hipsters salute it.
Most of the time, those scraps of paper got trampled underfoot, and were left to sop up beer and broken glass. They never saw the light of day.
And the reading public was better off.
Regardless, without drinking, I wouldn’t have had even those mutilated parts to cobble together. I needed something to silence The Voice That Hates Everything, just long enough to get something, anything, down on paper. There’s actually a window. You’re drunk enough not to listen to The Critic, but not too drunk to coherently do anything about it. It’s a sliver of time. If I hit it just right I could bang out some decent shit before the aperture closed. And The Moron took over
I once heard of this writer that was an alcoholic. Yeah, I know. Crazy shit. But I trust the source. If you are one, I don’t need to explain how alcohol can facilitate the creative process. You guys know. Get one us drunk, and you are going to witness some original thinking. Bold even.
Ideas not hemmed in by bullshit like reason or meaning. Or fear of social rejection.
When your diving board is that springy, you’re bound to get a good bounce. Where you land, is not as important as how much air you catch. A belly flop into a drained pool is still better than sitting on a chaise lounge. It’s certainly a better story to write about.
This one time I belly-flopped into a drained pool. Okay, not true. But it seems like something that could have happened. Can I just write about stuff the could have happened? I can write a whole story that climaxes with a dive into concrete. Seems me.
That also seems like too much work for tonight. Too creative.
I just want this screen to magically fill itself with words.
So far it’s working.
Okay, I shouldn’t have said that.
Now nothing again…
…for longer than you’ll know.
Tunes. I need tunes. Time to put some Billy Childish on the old I-Podular unit. That always help loosen me up a bit. Some bad-toothed Brit spitting out the words. Mad Billy. The Churl of Chatham. One of Thatcher’s bastard children. Doesn’t give a flying fuck. Snarling cur. Pissed drunk. Pissed-off. Grab a face. Hurl a gob. Knee a groin. Rebellion and riot. Boots and pint glasses smashing into your skull while a bird in white leather blows you a pink lipstick kiss, then jabs a pool cue in your eye. Action. Adventure. Romance.
It’s not working. I’m not feeling it.
I feel like putting on a Snuggy and watching a cable show about luxury RV’s. Going through my closet and getting together a pile for St. Vincent DePaul. Organizing my dumb-bells in the garage, in descending order, by weight. Anything but writing now.
However, according to the WordPress Word-O-Meter, I’ve got 733 words. Just a few more, and all this can be over.
Let’s see…this one time, in my past, something really funny happened. I’m not in the mood to remember any particular instance, or even make one up. But if I did, hoo-boy! What laffs we would have. We’d be pissing our pants. Imagine how awesome that would be.
That added some words. Come on. Dig deep.
Why am I even doing this? What’s the point? What’s my motivation? Not fortune and fame. Not on WordPress. Why this compulsion to write, even when I don’t have anything?
My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Wagner (who was totally hot) was the first person to encourage me to write. She told me I had talent and that if I applied myself to it, I could go far. Yep. Yeppy yep yep. She was so right. If I applied myself.
She was my first muse. Man, I had a crush on her. I remember holding her hand when I was line monitor. It was cool, white and chalky. Holding it gave me intensely weird feelings. The fact it was attached to a married woman made the medicine even more strange, more potent. An attraction to females and danger was already reaching out through those cool, white chalkies. The loving hands of death.
I wound up writing stories just so she would read them. They always featured me as some sort of heroic force of nature. I wanted to impress her. Make her think I was something more than I was. Working as my own publicist, you might say. Anyway, she’d give them back with some positive comments and maybe one of her red-inked smiley faces. Heady shit for a fourth-grader. It meant she bought the lie, and maybe I had a chance.
It seems that writing was my earliest attempt at seduction. Good thing I never tried that again.
942 words. Almost there. Maybe I’m already there. I can just end this shit right now. Kill it. A little zinger and The End. Make it a short one. For a change.
I dunno. I think it’s going to fart itself out here pretty soon. Let’s poke it along and see if we can get it to crawl some more.
I had this gig once, writing a weekly column for a local paper in Santa Fe. They paid forty bucks an article. The deadline was noon Monday mornings. I didn’t have a computer those days, so it’s not like I could just press send from the old home office. Even if I could, there would be no point in sending something that didn’t exist. I hadn’t spent the week-end working on an article. I spent the weekend turning the old home office into a den of iniquity. One filled with enough wretched excess and moral decay to have made Caligula uncomfortable.
Too busy living life to its fullest, baby, to be scribbling bullshit on paper.
On Monday morning, I’d be lying close to death from having lived so fully. I’d stare up at the ceiling. What the fuck am I going to write? I was too poisoned to handle a pen and paper. I would word-process the column in my head, in between vomiting and sipping canned beer. Cheap, rancid shit. Stuff that made you puff sewer gas out of your pores. I’d be moving paragraphs around in my head. Trimming sentences. Inserting jokes. Sweating and stinking. Sprawled out on a stained mattress. Trying really hard to be a genius.
For forty bucks.
Some mornings I wasn’t sure if I was going to live, but I was sure I wasn’t going to miss that deadline. Or the forty bucks. I never did. It was my last vestige of responsibility and I clung to it tenaciously. I’d get on my stolen bicycle with no seat, and peddle down to The Reporter. I’d borrow somebody’s computer and bang out what I had in my head, while also trying to hold my alcohol smell in. Tapping away, taking really shallow breaths. Not wanting everyone in the office to know what a drunk I was. Even though that’s what the article was about. Genius.
Shit, that was hard. This is easy. We’re already at 1298 words and I haven’t broken a sweat.
Back then I needed a deadline. Sometimes I would set up a reading, knowing it would force me to write. If I didn’t have an ax hovering, I’d blow off the work at the first sign of a stall. Whereas if I had a performance looming, I’d stick with it, and try to power through. I had to come up with something. The reading was in three hours. And still, I would procrastinate.
I’d be burning it to the last minute. One time, I actually finished a piece after I took the stage. Wrote the last words after I sat down on the chair and opened a beer. I’d have all these papers stuffed into a briefcase, sheets flying out everywhere, and the audience would think it was part of the shtick. Fine by me. Let them think this was performance art. The truth was that I was totally unorganized and flying by the seat of my pished keks.
I wound up losing the part I had just wrote, that same night. It was amazing. I finished writing it up there on stage, set it down, and read some older pieces. Things were rolling along. Then I decided to lay the fresh one on them. Hot off the presses this one, kids. I get halfway through, and realize I can’t find the last sheet.
That’s funny. I just wrote it. I’m going through the whole briefcase while the audience waits, but it is gone, gone, gone. I’m totally baffled. I mean I didn’t go anywhere. I was on stage the whole time. So where could I have misplaced it? Somewhere between here and here. When was the last time you saw it? When I was sitting right here.
Performance art? Or just train wreck? I’ll never tell.
I always wanted to see how close I could cut things. Let me tell you, I could cut them wahfer theen.
There was a place in LA, called Al’s Bar, over by Little Tokyo. They had an open mike on Thursdays. Some friends and I would pile in the car and drive south. We’d take turns going up to do something. Didn’t much matter what. It was for our own enjoyment. The idea that we were up there “performing” something in front of an audience, was a pretty good rush. But, it was even better if you could push the envelope. Redefine what constitutes entertainment. Get esoteric. Make people wonder about you. Provoke thought.
Scare the hell out of yourself.
One night, I decided I wanted to try an experiment. I wanted to see what would come out of me if I had absolutely nothing prepared. Nothing. Just get up there and see what rolls out. I’d create a vacuum in my psyche and hope something would fill it…at the very last minute. Something interesting was bound to happen. No matter what. Maybe I’d even learn something.
I learned something alright. I learned that I was fucking crazy.
As the evening proceeded, and my turn got closer, I started feeling some apprehension. Maybe I should have some back-up, in case I can’t come up with anything.
And ruin the integrity of the experiment? You idiot. The whole point of this would be destroyed. You’d be left doing something pointless. We can’t have that. Sufficiently penitent, I pushed any ideas away and tried to sit in mental void. As best I could.
The place was noisy. There were people in the other room talking at the bar and shooting pool. They weren’t paying attention to what was going on in the little show room. In the performance space, there were probably thirty or so people. All watching the terrible spectacle that is an open mike night. Most of them were on the sign-up list to perform. So you can imagine how pathetic. How brutally dreadful.
That night, I couldn’t take comfort in how terrible the other acts before me were. I didn’t know if my shit would be any better. After all, I didn’t even know what my shit was.
Just be here. Don’t think. Stay present.
I was pretty awake by the time they called my name. Not really able to anesthetize myself, at even dive bar prices, I was far too sober to enjoy the experience. I always had stage-fright, but that night it seemed particularly acute. The Fear had coiled in my gut and was constricting my throat. Why was I doing this? Nobody held a gun. This was all my idea. Of fun.
Why would I do this to me?
I got up and introduced myself. I adjusted the mike, and looked down at it. I stared deep into the meshed metal wire. I really had nothing. Nothing. I clearly remember thinking, “Okay, I’m fucking out of here.” I just stood there and checked out. Evaporated. My soul had left the building, leaving an empty husk staring at the mike. Silence. Then…
“I WANT TO FUCK YOUR MOTHER!!!”
I watched myself say it, from about two feet behind and above. Sort of floating above it all. Me looking at me. I wasn’t too thrilled with what I was seeing. The whole bar had gone pin-drop silent. The people in the next room stopped talking and shooting pool. Everyone was staring at me. I guess that was good. I had gotten everyone’s attention. Or at least whatever possessed me did. Good way to do it. Although it seemed a little drastic. No warming up the crowd with some friendly patter and a reminder to tip the waitress and bartender. No. Just cut to the chase. Let everybody know what you would like to do to their mother.
Now I really didn’t know what to say.
Well, I wasn’t about to return into my body. Not while I had to deal with this telling everyone I wanted to fuck their mother situation. I decided that whoever yelled out that shit in the first place, could have the mike. Maybe they can get us out of this, but I wanted no part of it.
It seems the invading spirit had some more things to say, some other pronouncements to make, because I was up there for the entire five-minute allotment. I can’t remember any of it. Not even right afterwards. I had blacked-out. And not my normal version. It was strange. I do remember people laughing. Then afterwards, people clapping and cheering, and some guy wanting to buy me a beer. Which I was nice enough to allow.
My friends said I did well, but I didn’t trust them. I figured they had to say that. I certainly didn’t want to press the investigation. I never asked them what I had actually said up there, beyond the fabulous ice-breaker. I really didn’t want to know. My scientific investigation was over. While many questions remained (like what happened) I was able to come to some firm conclusions.
If you create a vacuum, something will fill it. Whatever it was, in my case, got some dude to buy me a beer. That was enough to label the entire experiment a resounding success. It also helped my stage fright. I was never as nervous after that night. Maybe there’s some facing your fears message in there, but I don’t see it.
Oh shit, we’re at 2676 words. That’s more than enough. Okay, let’s wrap this fucker up fast. Uh, yeah, things happened, blah blah, everything turned out cool, blah blah. Explain some valuable insights. Some lessons learned. Maybe some shit about letting go and the creative process, or the entertainment value of demonic possession. Ask some big questions. Give few real answers. Toss in a general observation. Pair it with a specific absurdity. Come up with a clever reference to something earlier in the piece, then a pithy popper to cork it. This bitch is done.
And I had nothing.