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Production as pathology

I set out today to write this essay. Writing as an art escapes me. Writing is a personal exercise at centering myself in this world and sating a desire to do something productive. I don’t write out of inspiration, though I am often inspired. Instead I write out obligation.

Lately, I have entered a creative lull. It seems that I have nothing to write about. I feel no creative motivation. The inner creative beast is asleep. Call it middle-age angst, the question of what I am doing and what I’ve become. What do I have, at the age of 52, to offer the world? Not much, it seems.

Bruce Chatwin

That doesn’t stop me from feeling obligated to write something every day of the week. I am a writer and have always wanted to be writer. I think of things I want to write a hundred times a day. Only a few of them ever get to paper (or keyboard, if you wish). I go about my daily business and think, wow, that’s a great idea for a poem—or essay or short story or book. But these ideas get lost in the comings and goings of the day. I often reach home and sit in front of the keyboard and wonder, hey, where have all those good ideas gone? I can’t think of them. I have forgotten them and they wander forever in the space between desire and forgetting.

Ralph Ellison

None of this blunts the sense of obligation that plagues me. The need to produce that I have taken from my upbringing and from society at large compels me to sit down and write. Nobody told me I had to write. Society does not demand that I write. This obligation that I feel as responsibility is something I have taken on myself. It was not given to me.

This, then, leads me to believe that this compulsion to produce comes from within. At the end of the day, I have to feel as if I have done something. Since I have no innate talents or skills, the only thing I can produce is writing. It’s what I was born for.

Simon De Beuvoir

This need to produce is a sickness. I cannot sit and wonder, ponder, or contemplate. I am in a constant state of removing myself from the relationship I have with myself. I don’t want to see inside and, therefore, I have to have something to show. These little essays are what I can show, even if I have not written anything of meaning or significance.

I used to think in lofty terms about writing, art, and literature. Now I think of it as discipline. If I sit in front of a computer long enough, I will write something, anything. I have often sat in front of the computer for hours, just looking at the blank screen. I check E-mails. I surf the internet. I get a drink, eat, nap. But I am always attached to the keyboard. I will write. What’s left to question is what I will write and when.

Literature. Personalities. pic: circa 1940's. British author George Orwell, (1903-1950) among his many books were "Ninteen Eighty Four" and Animal Farm".
George Orwell

I realize this doesn’t sound profound, but I have never thought of myself as profound, even if I always wanted to be profound. I see writers around me write significant works. They say things that mean something to someone. I don’t have anything to tell anyone. I have to write and when I have nothing to write about, I write about myself. I firmly believe that when writers run into a wall and find that they don’t have anything to say, they write about themselves. This makes my writing trivial, not worthy of consideration.

damon runyon
Damon Runyon

This speaks to my belief that I will never compete. It’s not that I don’t want to. I want to publish. I want to work through legitimate publishers to bring my work to light. Vanity publishing, blogging, and reading at free events make for a lot of words floating out there in space. We have an internet that gives us the world on a computer, or allegedly does that. I’ve found that the internet just gives us a lot of facts and opinions loosed from context. It creates the illusion that every thought has legitimacy, every word meaning. But not every thought has meaning. Not every opinion is informed. An idea should have to work hard to get into the public. When it doesn’t, it produces a situation in which every thinker is a baby and every writer unable to deal with the exigencies of filters. A thought that doesn’t have to work produces laziness.

This is certainly the case with me. I didn’t have to do anything to get this thought out to the public but put words on paper. I have a forum and I use it, but because getting the word out into the public is so easy, I have not worked to refine. I didn’t contemplate. I sat in front of a computer. Words came out. I entered those words on my blog. You read them or not. They are out there, floating among all the other meaningless drivel that self-important people produce. The thought, then, is nothing. It makes no difference. It changes nothing.

Anais Nin

I think of truly great writers. Maugham, Hemingway, Orwell—who wrote what I consider to be the best of all memoirs in Down and Out in Paris and London—worked hard to get their words into the public. They struggled against great odds. They found themselves rejected again and again. The filters—editors, publishers, a discriminating public—made them think, refine, contemplate. The struggle created works of great depth and meaning. With the internet, nothing is rejected. Few things rise to the top. Speculation and sensational sell. But they bring us nothing new and different. We don’t have a new aesthetic. My generation has produce little very new.

Regardless, I sit here every day. My production of two or three essays a week, and sometimes one every day, does a great deal of good for me, even if what I write does nothing for anyone else. Writing is a selfish endeavor and may do more harm to me and the public than if I didn’t write anything. The discipline that forms around writing makes for a lot of practice.

In the outside chance that I find a meaty subject that will have meaning and import, I’m ready.


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