Tuesday, May 26, 2009

anatomy of the creative process (posted to Facebook on 7/14/08)

it's funny when you've got the world at your feet but your mind is the blankest of blank slates. i should know. i hate it when people tell me to write a poem about something totally random, like penguins or the stock market. on one hand, i get this insane (inane?) feeling of intense obligation. i envision myself staying up until 3:27 in the morning, the light still on in the office, my mom rousing herself from sleep to tell me that it's WAY past my bedtime (and to give me a facebook curfew instead of just a chat one this time--at least until i get my own laptop)...and it's not a pretty sight. i've got bags the likes of a Louis Vuitton suitcase set under my eyes, i can barely move my hands anymore, and my bed is calling my name, but dang it i still have to write this darn ode to Wal-mart for my good friend _______ whom i just met yesterday (that's why the blank's there: i can't remember the dude's name) and i can't stop until it's as awesome as something robert frost or e.e. cummings could have come up with...and that's where i pass out cold with visions of rollback smileys bouncing around in my head.

on the other hand, and possibly BECAUSE of anticipation of the first, i find myself giving the needy party a "you must be on crack" sort of look as i decline their fruitless offer...i mean, what do i look like, a poetic Santa Claus that delivers your desired verse the next morning, eating from a plate of Oreo cookies you set out for me last night for inspiration? i mean, come on, people...i don't even like chocolate.

don't get me wrong...i wish it were that easy for me to cater to everyone's literary needs. but it's just not possible. you see, from the first moment the writing bug bit me at the tender age of...uh...whenever the heck that was, i've experienced a problem typical among writers, a problem i like to call a poetic stuh-stuh-stuh-stutter, what most normal people call writer's block. but this isn't just your garden variety oh-my-gosh-i-so-totally-lost-my-train-of-thought hindrance of the creative process...for me, it's more like oh-my-gosh-my-train-of-thought-so-totally-just-CRASHED. subtle differences, very subtle.

picture this: you've just had this wonderfully inspiring day, and you even got to watch the sun set over a most picturesque horizon--so breath-taking you cried when it was over like you were a really emotional person at your 3rd viewing of "the notebook." you really want to capture that moment forever, whether by computer, pencil and paper, chalkboard, or stone tablet. you sit down a scant 3 minutes later to create your awe-inspiring masterpiece...and the whole experience flees from your mind's eye like a bug from a stiletto heel.

or how about this one: you find yourself in emotional ecstacy; the guy (or girl) of your dreams is becoming more of a reality each day. you want to find some way to shout how you feel to the heavens without waking the neighbors (don't worry, you'll get the joke in a few days...). so you pull up facebook notes, poemhunter.com, microsoft word, or a good old stack of college ruled paper, prepared to write until that God-forsaken 3:27 in the morning if you have to, ready to send your work to all your friends via email, usps, pony express, pigeon, or brick through a window (that's only if you're just so hood you and your friends don't have mailboxes). you have so many overwhelming emotions to express, so much rapture in your mind that if you don't get it out you're likely to implode...but your pen hasn't moved. it's 3:29 and 15 seconds and the screen is still blank. and you feel an uncomfortable pressure in the cranial area...

so now you understand the poetic stuttering process. it's funny how i call it the poetic stutter...and i just finished reading a book where the main character has a really bad stutter of the verbal persuasion. but anyway, that's beside the point. when you're at the mercy of a stutter of the creative persuasion, you find yourself with creative-side headaches, psychosomatic or otherwise, for days on end because that one profound topic just never sounds right on paper. the pen's frozen in your hand, the blank word document's staring back into your pitifully blank eyes, the cursor blinking back and forth in some sort of horribly silent cyberspace derision...but you're helpless to stop it, unless of course you shut off the computer, pick up your playstation 2 controller, and begin to play an RPG to take the pain of the failure away by beating the living poopy-doopy out of those zombie looking things.

"wait!" you're probably saying. "but how do you get any writing done if that darn stutter is such a problem for you?" well, returning to my hypothetical situation...let's just say that one day, you're eating some lucky charms, or sitting in church, or taking a shower, or something random. you haven't thought about that darn PS for quite some time. and all of a sudden, you have an epiphany. it's like the muse of poetry just came within six inches of your face and slapped you upside the head...you'll have to excuse her, she's probably having one of those days. you drop your spoon, or your Bible, or your loofah sponge, whatever, in this great moment of realization. you scrounge around for a pencil and a napkin or an offering envelope or something, ANYTHING to write on. and before you know it, you've just finished what might be one of your best works ever in the short, long, or otherwise described history of your works. alliteration, end rhyme, metaphor, synesthesia...it's all there, perfect--your miracle rained down from the heavens. just don't lose that church bulletin, and you'll finally be able to tell the world of the blessing of verse you've just received. thus proving that it's true what they say...what you're searching for will only want to be found when you're not actually searching for it...the ultimate catch-22.

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