Writer's block, bassoons and therapy
| He said that the sky was dappled like leopard skin. That is how I knew he was a poet. So I sat in the shade and we chatted while I pulled out the blades of grass caught in front of my feet by the roots. I talked to him about his children’s’ school programs. About his wife. About the fact that he had fixed the radio in the company van, though he couldn’t tell anyone about it. I talked to him about why he was fixing my sister’s air conditioner instead of writing poetry.
He said that the poetry was just for him. That he didn’t think anyone would understand his emotion, so he‘d stopped writing poetry all together. That, well, poets never make any money, anyway.
I know the excuses well. I’ve used them myself.
Now-a-days, life is filled with bassoon lessons and therapy. I can believe that there are more therapists in the world now, but are there any more bassoonists out there, waiting? And, if so, why are they waiting?
My youngest nephew is eight years old (going on nine, he reminds me). I write, he rides his bike. I dream about plots in my head, he’s thinking about football plays and “kick-soccer-baseball.” He and I are about as similar as a gladiator and a fish. I won’t tell you who is who there.
It’s chancy that he actually comes inside the house before dinner time. He’ll leave his book bag on the front porch in a pile and turn around again, having tracked-down the ball where it had rolled underneath the rosebush the night before. Or, on the odd day that he’s alone, he’ll ride around on a skateboard for hours coming up with new tricks to show me before Cub Scouts, usually involving the curb and turning, generally veering precariously close to the car.
I go to work every day, thinking about this great idea -- obviously (in my head, at least) the next Oprah’s Book of the Month in disguise. I doodle notes in my ever-present notebook during lunch, waiting to get home, so sure that this will be The One that will take everyone’s breath away.
Then I come home and wash dishes to the sound of the clothes washer’s hum. I’ll clean out the car, vacuum, anything… so long as I can stay away from the computer. Finally, near bedtime, with the kids’ deep breaths behind me, I sit down To Write… and stare at a blank page for a half-hour, unable to begin this great idea in a less-than perfect place.
But I remember when I used to be the one doing it first, thinking about it later. Is this just a condition of growing up? A rite of passage for the adult? Is this, “having to know the consequences of one’s actions intimately“ something you can grow in to or out of? I mean, we’re talking about the woman who won’t scrapbook because she’s afraid she’ll ruin the pictures.
So I set a kitchen-timer for 10 minutes. I sit down at the computer, waiting… Minutes tick by as I start, then backspace, then start again. The timer dings.
Yet the only thing I can come up with (that sounds real) is the idea that writer’s block, in some form or another, has to have been overcome by every rational producer in the world, whether their calling is poetry or politics. Maybe that’s the real meaning here…
That it’s not necessarily what we produce, but that we produce something. That we take a blank page and color every inch of it with ourselves. That we tape down all four sides of the paper, and that we go off the page, making oily strokes of color on the table underneath. That we make this personal portrait and leave it: boldly imperfect and child-like at times, to the next generation.
That we continue to work on this picture, even when it’s not the thing that pays the bills.
So I think I’m going to continue with the 10 minutes-a-day plan, maybe even work it up to a half-hour. I don’t feel like I’ve succeeded, but I do feel like I’ve accomplished something, and it puts my mind at ease a bit to realize that I’ve colored that little square in the corner, to the right of the smiley-faced sun.