In the footsteps of Hotblack Desiato, I’ve been taking a month off dead, for tax reasons. Well, OK, not really for tax reasons. The Korean government treats me relatively well when it comes to hoovering up the monetary crumbs in my fiscal wake, and I have long been out of the purview of the long arm of Revenue Canada.
But I certainly have been dead, at least from the neck up. Occasionally during the course of the last month or two, as the caffeine rush has hit me, I’ve had a Brilliant Idea flash up on the Times Square text-crawl on the inside of my forehead, then just as quickly disappear, before I actually worked up the energy to write it down.
I’m not entirely sure why this might be, other than the damp lassitude that comes with the ‘monsoon’ season here in Korea, when the rains come and the whole country starts to smell and feel like the inside of a fat man’s underpants. Not that I’ve spent a lot of time rummaging around such places, mind you, but I got me an active imagination.
And I do have some theories.
The most plausible is performance anxiety. Since it became as certain as these things ever are that some of my offhand screeds were going to be included in the upcoming ‘Best of Web Writing‘ book (which should be finalized and ready to get magically transformed from bits to atoms in the next 8 weeks, according to a recent email from the publisher), I’ve felt a little weird about writing. Back when I was posting something every day — being a realio trulio weblogger, half self-promotion, half self-regard and half community-cheerleader (I know that’s three halves. I am large, I contain multitudes) — and I was pushing the thousand uniques a day envelope, with a couple of times the number of daily readers I have now, oddly, I didn’t think much about it. Just had a coffee or a beer or something, and whacked out some brainfart that was temporarily stinking up the room, to clear the air a bit. I imagine that many of those people who once visited the site now read it through the newsfeeds, and I may well have more readers than I did back then, but they are invisible to me, basically, and off my Pay Attention To Me Waaaah! radar.
I’m not sure if that reticence to dance in the spotlight for fear that it’ll just suck is a good thing or bad. Probably bad, because if you don’t write, you’re not a f–king writer, right?
The other thing that made my weiner shrink in the glare, authorially speaking, was this Flickr testimonial from my blogfather, Rageboy.
I even sent the bastard an email that could be summarized with “Dude? WTF?” to inquire if he was just yankin my crank. He replied in the negative. Proud — astonished, is more like it — am I that someone I’ve respected and sucked up to for so long thinks so well of my stuff, but I think it pushed me over the brink into the ‘crikey how can I live up to that?!’ swamp.
Not to say that I’ve spent more time revising or rewriting any of the infrequent posts I’ve made in the last month or two, of course. Hell no! But I did cringe when I hit the post button, which has to count for something.
And not to say that I don’t bask in the praise like a puppy with its ear being scratched. I do. Don’t stop now!
My other theory about why it is that I’ve if not gone dry, at least had a dam built upstream somewhere, is that I’m healthy, by god. Rude, animal health. All bulgy muscles and efficient oxygen exchange. Meaty, beaty, big and bouncy.
I started working out, you see, for the first time in my life, about 7 months back. About 4 1/2 hours a week, weights and treadmill and stationary bike. My 39th birthday came and went a couple of weeks back, and I’m in better shape than I have been in my life. It pleases me, especially considering that given the lifestyle I enjoyed during my 20s and early 30s, I’d figured I’d be dead by now.
But I’m kinda thinking that the life of the mind might suffer in some way when the meat is singing. Has there ever been a Real Writer who worked out at the gym? I’m not talking foofoo yuppie reactionaries like Brett Easton Ellis or someone like that, here. I mean mad bastards, one of whom I have always considered myself to be. Hell, I don’t know. But the persona, writerly and otherwise, that I’ve invested so much time grooming over the past few decades just doesn’t marry up with sleekness and throbbing muscley health.
It’s not that I feel that much dumber, per se, it’s just that, for the first time in a lifetime of flesh-hating, I’m feeling pretty comfortable inside my skin, and at the same time, the locus of Me has shifted downwards a couple of feet.
Balance is good, they say. Maybe it’s just that while the changes underway in the ways my mind and body work together are consolidated, I’m off balance, and it’ll all settle into a new pattern eventually. Hell, I dunno (redux).
But like I said, maybe it’s only the weather.
Either way, I apologize for not writing more to those who like to read the meandering mental travelogues of the wonderchicken. For now though, let it be known that I haven’t been on a half-assed hiatus because I’m unhappy. Just the opposite.
Balance? That there’s your problem. Mad bastards don’t calmly get healthy pedalling the stationary bike 4 1/2 hours a week, they go at it with the vein-popping, eye-throbbing intensity of the haemorrhoidal before collapsing in a heap amid the stars.
Mind you, that’s also another good way to get dead pretty fast.
Well, I did start smoking again, a bit, to compenste. Does that get me some Mad Bastard points?
after just reading this I am now feeling somewhat baddish wondering if my testimonial played any part in messing up your head by making you self-conscious, or more self-conscious. my earliest days of writing EGR as a webzine list in 1995 (my god) taught me many things. two heuristics stick with me, have become glued into my messenger RNA in fact, such that I don’t think I could shake them if I wanted to. fortunately, I don’t want to. unfortunately, I suspect these molecularly embedded turns of mind are at least in part responsible for my present state of financial ruin. so be careful of what I am about to impart. be aware that these… perhaps principles they could be called… might very well fuck you up to the point there is no WHERE to return to. on the sort-of-plus side, I tell myself that there never was such a WHERE to begin with, so there’s no risk involved, only perhaps some degree of terror. and what’s a little terror among friends? However, as in all cases, YMMV. and of course such dire warnings and counterbalancing assuraces serve as the most irresistable form of seduction. tempatation. think St. Anthony in Bosch’s manic nightmares. that could be you. please allow me to introduce myself… etc.
if you read further, you agree to indemnify me from any and all damages you may incur as a result of this transmission. to be freed from it’s spiritual and psychic bindings, you will have to pass it along to another willing to accept these same powers and chains. this is the way these things we given to me. I look forward to my own liberation should you accept. this concludes the required statement of terms and conditions.
well gee, after all that, I think you may be let down by these two things I have to impart. they’re just little stories, not much. nevertheless, the spooky language above still holds. and as this is getting rather longish for a comment(!!!) and I’m thoroughly wasted behind sleep deprivation, I suppose I’d better get on with it. so…
When I first started writing EGR, I quickly realized I could write anything. anything at all. and this was wonderful in the writing I began to discover was in me — I truly hadn’t known this much freedom before the net. who had? but when I was finished writing and obsessively editing — so many times I thought I’d go blind — then came the terror. I would think: I can’t send this. it’s too much. it’s too personal. too confessional, too off-putting, bizarre, outrageous, pornographic, emotional, illegal… I just can’t. Not *this* one. And I’d sit there, finger hovering over the send key, paralyzed with every form of trepidation you can imagine — and I imagine you know what I’m saying here. Always, I’d finally hit the key and the terrible, monstrous, vile, beautiful and confusing thing that had come out of somewhere inside me that I’d never known was there, would fly through the pipes and wires of the internet to people I didn’t know, had never seen or spoken with in any way. intimate pieces of myself going out like SETI probes: is there anyone out there? do you know what this thing is that I’ve sent you? because I don’t. it makes no sense what we say until it’s heard. unless someone says something back that begins to build something else, something larger, more complex and mysterious, yet more familiar at the same time. so I would wait and sweat and go through, you know, changes man, every time I sent out one of THOSE. we all know, anyone who really writes, when it’s one of THOSE. one where you’ve bared a part of your soul — even though I don’t think we have souls, something else inside. just us chickens. once in a while a wonderchicken. a rare enough event. unique and miraculous I would say, if I put much stock in modernism or miracles. but still… however, the point was my waiting in a nervous jangle of conflicting emotions about the implications of what I’d just done, what I’d — oh my god! — actually sent to thousands of perfect strangers.
This one will be much shorter, but it holds the magic bit. Which is that whenever, and I mean *every* time I sent out one of THOSE, I would get the most wonderful, heartening, deeply felt responses from people I’d never heard from before. they would de-lurk if I’d somehow managed to write from that place that can only be said to be THAT place. you’ve been there, you live there, I can tell from what you write. there are many who have no idea what THAT place is. take me, for instance. I don’t know either. but I can read a lot in the bounce. how it strikes other humans, touches them. the echo of that opened my heart a little more each time it happened, and what I wrote got scarier to send, more naked, more willing, more courageous in a way that felt often stupid, bufoonish… bombastic. that’s why it took courage to send it. OK, I’d say, this one is a piece of shit, and it makes me a clown and a fool, but fuck it, it’s going out. and the weird thing is that people would cheer me on. say, please oh please, whatever that was, more of THAT.
This is the actual transmission: write anything that comes into your head. and let anything *into* your head. send everything. now you are free. and permanently bound — to the readers who make meaning with you, with me, with all of us.
goo goo ga joob, bro.
Thank you, Chris.
I love you, man.
I was gonna write about how you do rock and not to worry about the “laze”, but I can’t. “RageBoy” used up all the words. *laugh*
Just remember this, Chris. Society will never forgive you for all that you’ve spewed across innocent monitors around the world. And for that, you are truly blessed. Yeah, I mean both of you… It’s always been a privilege to read myself through the crazed screeds emanating from your Gonzo heads. Look at it this way. Someone had to do it and the remarkable stuff produced by you guys circles the globe and links people. We couldn’t have dreamt up two madder bastards better able to do it had we wanted to. And we’ve never wanted to. I speak for myself, of course. The suits are behind the door, their pencils in their hands. But you know what they say; “Fuck ’em.” And keep doing it.
I don’t know what to say, Mike, other than thanks, because I’ve said before, many times, that when I read what you write, I wish I could kick as much texty ass as you, you bastard.
And by ‘bastard’ I assume you understand that I mean ‘brother’.
It’s a dangerous thing, cleaning up one’s act. For a while last year, I severely moderated my drinking. I had always though that I drank and then wrote in response to the madness of the world. I discovered instead that the madness and misery had more to do with the drinking itself than the world at large. I found myself relatively at peace and, thus, bereft of the passion that drove me to write. Separated from the pain and misery and tiredness that had become my lot, all that seemed left to write was idle chit chat, the sort of small talk that I don’t know how to do and hate anyway.
There are those who claim that health and happiness are no barrier to creativity but I guess they must be a different kind people from me. Either that, or it takes a goodly while for the new balance to obtain.
I dunno either.
Well, I am not sure whether to congratulate you on getting healthy and shit (apart from the smoking of course, which I am insanely jealous of, having given up the evil, nasty, delicious habit three weeks ago myself) or to whine about the lack of rage coming from emptybottle.org of late. I guess your gain is our loss.
This blog is pretty interesting, will add a bookmark, thanks.