writers block

I know that my head space isn’t quite balanced when I can’t write. I’ve written my whole life – I started keeping journals when I was eight. Not diligently, mind, just the occasional entry I wrote in my father’s discarded government issue dayplanners. I got a page a day, and I’d continue the entries on unused pages at the back.

When I was fifteen, I had a Hypercard stack on the family Mac SE that I kept password protected (I’d learned HyperTalk the year before because I was a computer nerd). At sixteen, I had a leather bound notebook that I kept under my futon, with music lyrics and quotes and observations jotted down, amidst drawings. I had a lot of Nine Inch Nails lyrics in it, suicide notes, pressed roses, all done in liquid purple ink.

At seventeen, I started the online journal, more to highlight the few scraps of my existence that resembled normal college life. I wanted to record and display the moments I had, that first year wandering UBC, where I interacted with the people around me. Journal as alter ego, journal as self-creation, selective display.

At eighteen, I started writing half-assed poetry in a spiral notebook, poems that I re-read occasionally now and don’t remember writing. I started writing short stories about concepts I knew nothing about – love, death, betrayal. I would trance out and just write, and watch concepts emerge at eighty-plus words a minute.

There are a lot of things I’ve given up in this lifetime. Music, to start with – I used to sit at a keyboard for hours, inventing derivatives on themes. I discovered computer music at fifteen, and would create tracks for hours, overlaying strings and percussion and piano. I could play almost anything by ear as a teenager, from showtunes to movie scores. I would become entranced by a piano, by chords, and disappear for two hours at a time. I wish I had that now – I wish I had a piano to sit at.

Writing seriously is something I gave up, because it requires me to be in the right frame of mind. Otherwise, I’ll mire myself in words that will never see the light of day. Or, worse, I won’t be able to write at all. Years went by in my life where I knew, if I started writing, it would tap into some part of me I just didn’t want to know about. I don’t know where my writing comes from, where the characters in my short stories, the concepts in my books, the words of poems, where any of it comes from. But I do know this: if I had sat down at my keyboard in Seattle four years ago to write, I would have started screaming and never stopped, because the words that came out might have woken me up from the stupor of despair I existed in from 1999 right up until late 2001.

These journal entries come out, unbidden, uncontrolled, yet always seem to take shape. It’s strange, for me, to see the words come out, because I’m so choosy about them, the way they sound, the lyrical quality and the root associations of each word that comes out of my keyboard. If it doesn’t ring quite correctly in my head as I write it down, I go back and select new words from my vocabulary. It’s my mother’s doing, my aethete’s sense of the English language, my mother the English major. I have grown up on big words, on rhythm and cadence in even the most basic of children’s literature (it’s what happens when you inherit boxes of British import books from elder half-siblings) and I’d like to think it shows.

Now, I’m starting to realize that my writing is getting better, here in Los Angeles. Maybe it’s being in a city where “writer” is an occupation that people actually have. In Vancouver, writing a book was a fantasy; here, it’s suddenly a reality. Certainly more so than writing a screenplay.

Or maybe it’s just that I write more, trying to convey the quality of my life, the fabric of my existence, to those Back Home. I see the world through the myriad vision of a dozen people. I see the things that would interest my father (history, civic planning, the L.A. river’s bridges). I see the things that would interest my friends (clubs, music, DJs). I see the places that appeal to a part of me I didn’t know I had – downtown L.A., the Venice boardwalk. And as I see the city through these perspectives, it challenges me to convey things differently.

I have done a lot of writing this weekend, this week, offline projects, and it feels ridiculously good to sit down and feel the words, the stories, the concepts flow out of my hands.

It’s like feeling my mountain bike respond under my legs and arms, like feeling the wheels twist on the pavement as it becomes an extension of my body, as I fly through the streets of Mar Vista/

It’s like feeling my body, my core muscles, respond to the beat of a dance song at a club, knowing that my too-long limbs are in time with the music.

It’s like hearing chords pour out of a speaker, synthesized strings in baroque patterns, a swirl and pattern of gloom.

Except that I have more control over words, over language, than I do any of the above. I’ve just been doing this for longer, after all. I’ve only taken my bike seriously the last few years, as anything more than a transportation alternative. I’ve only danced since I became thin, since I gained control over my body. And I haven’t touched music for years.

Words and words and words – thousands of them, crafted or not, oh, I’m so thankful that I have this. That I can write. That it helps me so much to do so – and that I’m finally, at twenty-six, beginning to recognize it as a possible art form, an entertainment form for the reader, not just as a selfish method of re-creating myself, of record keeping day after day.

It is with this in mind that I keep this journal, that I sit down to write the occasional “real” entry, where I try to describe one thing and one thing only: can you see the world through my eyes?

And with that, I will move on to the next entry: where I’ve been in the wilderness the last twenty four hours.

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