Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Dip in the Road

Surprisingly, I’ve been in quite a creative slump lately, as if I don’t have the ambition or diligence to achieve anything, and this slump has spread like a cancer to every aspect of my life. The very thought of expending the energy to merely mow the lawns is a hugely insurmountable obstacle to actually getting out there and spending the two hours it normally takes, and I have lately found myself not really in the mood to do much of anything, from wake up in the morning to going to bed at night.

As is usual, I’ve got ideas for stories (and blog entries) emanating from every pore in my body, and I would need 48 hours in a day, every day, to even begin to get them done. But I just don’t care. Money isn’t even a motivator for me in these past few weeks. I’ve got a job on the board I could hammer out in about a solid day of work; it’s worth an easy $1600—very seldom in my life have I been able to earn $200/hour—but I’m barely interested in doing the research for it. I only took it because I’ve done jobs for this client in the past and they’re easily satisfied with my work, but the subject matter is incredibly boring; every sentence I write has been excruciatingly painful, every click on the keyboard a pin in my creativity.

I would love to bang out a novel, and I’ve got several in the works… but I barely have the time to think about it much less do it, and it is tough to justify working on something for free when there are plenty of paying gigs on the board I should be doing (16 to be precise, totally about an eighth of my annual income). I would love to write a children’s book. I would love to get another short story out… I haven’t had one published in about eight years because of other responsibilities; when I was mired in magazine work, I didn’t have time to do much of anything extra-curricular. In my “ideas” folder, there are no less than 20 ideas for good short stories… it’s like a “what if” file for me now. What if I had the time to write them? What if they ended up any good? What if someone bought them? What if I don’t take the chance on writing them, taking the risk on finding a publisher to print them or invest the time on working out a deal?

You lose the race before its won if you don’t even bother to come to the starting line, and that’s where I’ve been lately, stuck in the back of the pack, considering myself an “also ran” in the editorial toward the printed word.

The only thing I’ve actually enjoyed doing besides doing absolutely nothing is reading. I’ve been reading a lot lately… I’ve got 2000 books in my personal library, so I might as well crack a few of them open, but in doing so has had a lasting affect: I’ve diluted myself into thinking that as long as I’m reading, I’m involved in the editorial process. I’m the end user, the reason why the book was written, and if I’m part of the editorial process in some fashion or form, then I’m working, I’m making my living. In the past two weeks, roughly since when this downtrodden oppressiveness began, I polished off seven books on various subjects, from how Gutenberg didn’t publish the complete Bible as we credit him for doing so (Gutenberg by John Mann—a great read if you’re interested in the story of early printing with moveable type…and who isn’t?) to how a team of archeologists didn’t unearth a complete Wooly Mammoth in Siberia (Mammoth by Richard Stone—an unnecessarily deep look into everything there is to know about the 10,000-year-old extinct animals). Among others, I also read MASH by Richard Hooker, and I found it interesting to compare the original 1968 novel to the 1970 movie and the 1972 television show, and I couldn’t think of another example of a story that has been represented by the “big three” like MASH had.

Currently, I’ve found myself embroiled in revisiting the scandal that rocked the White House in 1998… Yes, the Lewinsky/Clinton tryst. The book, One Scandalous Story by Marvin Kalb, discusses not just the social ramifications of the incident, but the lasting affect it had on the media, its perception on how to report news and the depth reporters would plummet to reach the bare facts. The first paragraph shares a story of when Kalb, then covering the Kennedy presidency, came upon an interesting scene of Secret Servicemen escorting a leggy blonde into a seldom used elevator of the Carlyle Hotel in New York City. Of course, he doesn’t admit it, but it could be none other than Marilyn Monroe, and the interesting facet to the tale is that he didn’t even bother to mention it to his editor as a possible story scoop. Before Vietnam, before the assassination and before Nixon, the sexual predispositions of our politicians (much less anything of their personal life) wasn’t news fit to be covered, and I’m sure, knowing the facts that you know about the blue dress and the “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” you see where the book is headed.

Interesting stuff.

Okay… I’ll be the first to admit it: this is going nowhere. I let you all off the hook tonight. The kids are fine. I’m fine. The wife’s fine. Everything’s fine.

Maybe tomorrow will be more interesting, but if it is anything like today, yesterday or last week, I’m not going to hold my breath.

Perhaps I’ll share with you what organization I’m volunteering for now (in addition to my city work); it seems I have so much free time that I’m willing to give it away. Shanghaied is probably a better description of it, but I don’t mind. Sometimes you need to get drunk in a bar and end up on a boat in order to change your perspective of things.

Of course, you can't expect me to have a good day every day. I'm not Ned Flanders.

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