Thursday, May 2, 2013

800 Words: An Off The Grid Vacation

I don't like taking vacations from this blog. Idle hands are the devil's tools. But I'm making my NYC and Boston 'debuts' as a violinist this weekend, so I think I can make a bit of an exception and I want to enjoy this debut for exactly how momentous this is for me. I don't care how small the club or how few people make it. I never thought I'd make it to New York as a real musician, and as of tomorrow night I will have done exactly that. I'm making my debut with a group of musicians who've been to the top conservatories in the country, and I'll be performing with them in the world's music capital. I don't need to be a soloist at Carnagie Hall, I just want to feel like a real musician.

But proud as I will be tomorrow, I have never been so proud of anything I've done in my life as I am of this webpage. People ask me quite often why I don't publicize it more or market it to more people, but the answer is all too simple - I'm too busy writing posts, too busy collecting material for the posts, and too busy enjoying the writing. The fertility of the inspiration I get on this page never ceases to amaze me, and I continue to enjoy finding ever newer ways to defeat that dreaded disease of all creators - creative block.

Nevertheless, writer's block has been a fear of mine since the Europe trip last year, and frankly a justifiable one. Before I left for Europe last July, I was 'writing' on all cylinders. Even there, when I didn't even have a computer to write the posts I wanted to, I would write outlines of the posts I'd have written. But I felt as though I was deposited back in America with my writing muscles completely out of shape, and since then, the land has not been quite as fertile. Perhaps too many band gigs have something to do with that, too much socializing, too many occupied nights, not enough privacy. On the other hand... maybe I'm just having too much fun to write as well. There are much worse reasons... But whatever the reason, I feel as though the concentration and long-range planning I had in year 1 of this blog is not quite as present in year 2, even though I have nearly as many ideas.

When this blog began, I wanted to write 800 words every day, 7 days a week. Instead, I've written plenty of 4500 word posts in a single day and waited a week to detox, or sometimes I could knock out five 2,500 word posts in a week. But the diligence of regular writing somehow eludes me still. I envy writers, or any sort of worker, who views his or her practice as a trade, and can apply themselves for the same hours every day without an unconquerable failure of concentration. Anthony Trollope used to sit every morning from 4:30 to 7:30 to write his novels before he left for his day job in the civil service - in 35 years, he wrote 47 novels. If he finished a novel in the middle of those three hours, he would simply begin work on a new novel on the same page where he completed the old one. At the time, many readers thought this approach indicative of shallowness and a lack of inspiration. If the price of inspiration is inconsistency, then I would love nothing more than to be consistently inspired, if only in a rather dull manner. I'm amazed by how truly I've hewed to that model, but in my mind it's not truly enough.

I have no problem with the thought that many of these posts are not as good as others. I love the old idea on which Classic Hollywood built the Studio System. One in every three movies would be good, one in every five would be great. The end result of that diligence was the American culture which conquered the world. Any baseball hitter is considered great if he gets hits on three out of every ten at-bats. I'm proud of most of the writing on this blog, but I'm particularly proud of my failures. And more particularly, of my ability to not listen to the critical voice which tells me to unpublish those posts. Getting thoughts down on paper is not easy, but it is only by having the nerve to fail that any of us dare to succeed. When it comes to fiction and music, I'm still ashamed to put bad thoughts down on paper. And the end result is that I've written very little fiction and a mere fraction of the music I've wanted to write. I was determined that blogposts/essays/non-fiction would not end up the same way for me. I've dared myself to fail on a pretty massive level, and the fact that I let people see posts which are full of some pretty terrible writing is what keeps me going. If I took them down, I would not have any reason to show people that I can write better.

Another sapper of energy is something I'm a bit ashamed to admit. I feel like the energy which used to be taken on this blog is now going into... yech... facebook. It's all too easy. I'm still at a point when I'm lucky to get more than 100 hits on this blog every day. And yet I've become a facebook brand who seems to get twenty likes on a one-sentence 'witticism' (facebook wit is a very low form of wit) nearly every day. It's incredibly stupid, but it somehow flatters my vanity that I'm able to do that so easily. And the quickness of the results and feedback on that makes the more considered nature of the blog (or this blog at least...) seem almost thankless in comparison - in spite of the fact that I'm proud of this writing, and I feel like the (un-remunerated) equivalent of a sitcom hack writer who wants to write a 1,000 page novel.

So my idea, perhaps a wrongheaded one, is simple. I'm going off the grid for half a week. I'll only be reachable by phone and text - no email. Starting when I leave tomorrow; no blogging, no facebook, no g-chat, no twitter, no internet music, no youtube, not even a longform online magazine article. If somebody turns on a television, I'll watch it, but I won't put myself in the way of access to it.  I'll take three books with me on the trip for my various rides (I'm going from Baltimore to Maine and back as a car passenger), but that will be the extent of my entertainment. When I turn on my laptop around 10:30 PM on Tuesday, I want to look at the internet with fresh eyes. And maybe,... just maybe,... I'll write with fresher words too.

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