The Labors of Writing

I’ve never believed in “writer’s block.” That seems to me to be a phrase invented by amateur writers as an excuse for not being able to think of anything clever to say. The professional writer or poet can write on demand, on potentially any subject.

That being said, I’ve had “writer’s block” for a while now. The problem I had with trying to write recently is that I could never find a subject to write about, or say any clever things about it. As I said, writer’s block is simply an excuse.

My sister once told me when I asked about her amazing artwork that drawing itself is insubstantial. Anyone can draw. The biggest obstacle to any art, however, is finding out what to draw. Well no, sister, if drawing itself were insubstantial, my horridly disproportioned doodles would sell as masterpieces and I’d at least be able to make a living off of selling portraits on the street for ten bucks apiece. Sounds like abstract modern art–which brings up an interesting question: how can erratic splashes of paint on a canvas sell more than street artists’ work?

Recently, I attended a day-long clown workshop with the rest of my clown class under Catherine…something or other. I should probably know her name, since I may run into her again, being in the acting profession, but I’m terrible with things like that. Regardless, we did several workshopesque activities with an underlying lesson in clown to each of them (it was based in a particular school of clown but I’m still terrible with names–something starting with a “C” I think). It was very fun, mind opening, enjoyable, etc. but there was one lesson that stuck out above the rest of them: things themselves aren’t as important as the value we place on them. It doesn’t matter if a clown is holding a dead cockroach in a tissue; if he sees it as the most precious thing in the world then the audience will usually see it in the same way. If it’s a good clown.

The labors of writing, the labors of art, the labors of anything, then, aren’t in the things themselves, but in the value we place in it. The colored squares on a white canvas, the so-called masterpieces of earlier times, and even a child’s finger painting are all art because the artists created them with a gleam of the stars in their eyes, and if anyone looking at them can catch just a glimpse of what the artist saw, then it is surely something truly beautiful. This is what we people all crave–what we all innately desire: those starry eyes that can’t help but see beauty in everything. The dogs content with simply rolling in the sun and the cats chasing manipulated wisps of light both call to us in a primal, enticing way. We want this, these stars in our eyes so we too may see the world through the lenses of invention, discovery, and art, where nothing is dulldrum or repetitive or unenjoyable because they’re all cast under that cosmic glow that whispers to our nerves through our souls that everything is beauty and just a reflection of the aegis-mirror of our heart. And maybe this is why art is so varied, and even though there’s always someone better in skill, there’s no one better at showing what you saw when gazing into the spirit of the universe with the glow in your eyes speeding by at lightspeed, stopping only when your next masterpiece is done: because we do not make art, art makes us. We do not write or paint or sing to make money, but because something calls from within to explode back into the ever-changing shape of the static existence we’ve been part of for all our lives but still keep trying to figure out. Why not ask the stars? Try asking your eyes.

And so maybe this is why the free verse poems I have no taste for are so well received. Maybe Ezra Pound had more value in his work than I have for mine, or his readers see something not even he intended. I’ll never know the reason, but what I do know is that maybe what I’m writing has been thought a thousand times before, and maybe rhymes have gone stale because we’ve heard the same rhyming monosyllabic words too many times already, and maybe I’ll be another Ozymandias–challenging the world to look on my works when they’ve already blown away with the sands, but I’m blinded by my own shining eyes. I write because I must; because I am made by my own work, and try as I might to deny it, it cannot be ignored. I cannot stop writing, even if others stop reading.

So, in a roundabout way, there is no such thing as writer’s block. There is no writer’s block because true artists–hell, every one of us–are compelled to create. We are compelled to discover. We are compelled to see beauty in everything, or waste away trying to deny it, because the things themselves are not as important as the value we place in them. They are not as important as the value we see in them with our starry, cosmic, dreaming eyes.

And with that, a poem.

In Praise of the Puddle

Must every collection of water be deep?
A sip from the shallows is surely as sweet
As a drink from the well that seems to have steeped
In the same league of water that ocean gods sleep.

The deeper the water, the darker the sea;
The darker the water, the less you can see,
So puddles of water seem clearest to me:
They may not contain much, but that much is free.

The fathoms, however, all come at a price:
The deep and the darkness demand sacrifice,
So eddies will grab who the surface enticed
To drag them below to be burned into ice.

No avarice waits within shallower things:
They’re clear as your eyes and reflecting their dreams,
So look slightly closer–they’re not what they seem–
Reflections hold more than the deepest extreme.

~Michael Danger Caskey

Published in: on April 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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