Well, here we are again, and Iím bone dry.
I mean creatively. I mean the olí fingertips. Canít think of a thing. Iíve started this column at least six, eight times, and always get a paragraph into the thing then delete it all while mumbling, grousing, whining, complaining or pouting. The hazards of writing a twice-weekly column: Coming up with 104 ideas a year.
You gotta admit, itís been a while since my creative well dried up. I knew it would happen again, and I kept waiting for it, but the ideas just kept rolling out. Granted, some were better than others, but thatís just the nature of the beast.
Still, here I sit, the afternoon before Column Day, staring at the blank computer screen. The little blinking cursor taunts me: Yo, bad boy, whatcha gonna do when they come for your DRIED UP, UNCREATIVE HAS-BEEN SELF??? That sort of thing. Computer screen cursors are not very close to being spelled "cursers" for nothing.
Sometimes I think if I were a hermit writer with no family or friends theyíd find me here, hands poised over the keyboard, withered like a mummy, years after all the utilities have been cut off and the propertyís been dispensed at a tax sale.
"Great," says the buyer, a guy who looks suspiciously like Neuman from Seinfeld. "Now whoís gonna clean that up?"
Itís a feeling similar to that you get if you canít comprehend math, or geometry or philosophy. You know that feeling. You can almost physically feel your skull empty out, like a vacuum pump was hooked up to your ear and turned to HI. You sit here and try to wrack your brains for a topic, any topic, but the Great Empty in your cranium just expands like a bell-shaped curve. Sometimes, sitting here trying to come up with a column, I think I know what a black hole in space feels like.
Most of the problem, I know, is that spring starts March 20, though it seems like itís already here and I understand the fish are biting and itís simply wrong, do you hear me, wrong that people should be cooped up in cinderblock and brick buildings with tiny slivers for windows when itís spring, for the love of Pete. Itís just not right, and it ainít natural, and I firmly believe itís sending all of us to an early grave. Not so early as unemployment, perhaps, but you get the idea.
And thatís been my problem for as long as I have been writing creatively: Itís hard Ė almost impossible, really Ė for me to write counter to how Iím feeling. Like right now, I could assail you with a bazillion stories about spring fishing, flushing quail, wooden boats and horseback riding, but I canít for the life of me think of something funny to say about Bob at Quiznoís. I could write volumes about budding pecan trees and robins in the yard, but I canít begin to fashion a single word about weight loss, television commercial absurdities or giving my thumbprint to the bank. Long and short of it is this: If I donít get outside and get some real living done, Iím gonna stay dry forever.
Blink. Blink. Blink. Thatís what the little curser Ė I mean, cursor, says. Blink. Blink. Blink. Like a cat blinks at you in complete disdain. Like your significant other blinks at you when youíre arguing. Like the blink of a predator, a snake or something. Blink. Whatís the matter, boy? Blink. Canít think of anything witty? Blink. Nothing profound?. Blink. All washed up, eh? Sometimes itís all I can do not to just reach out and strangle it, but is cursor murder a crime?
I could try to go fly fishing after work, but the windís blowing gale force outside. Iíd end up with a No. 12 Jitterbee in my earlobe and have to get a surgeon to remove it. I remember once my father hooked himself in the back of the head when the wind sent his fly too low on the forward cast. I piddled with it for about five minutes, trying to help him, and finally in agony he said, "Just leave the damn thing alone!" and with a mighty yank freed himself. He kept fishing for the rest of the day, while I nursed a queasy stomach. My dad was more of a man than Iíll ever be. I call the ambulance for a splinter.
Blink. Blink. Blink.
Yeah, hereís a quarter, go call somebody that cares.
You want some cheese to go with that whine?
And so it goes, and so it goes. Last weekend I took down the pirogue thatís been hanging in my garage for eight years. I have no intention of using it. I hate pirogues. Pirogues are the nautical equivalent of the mechanical bull, if you ask me. Only more tame. Like wrestling a greased walrus. But it was the last pirogue my dad built, and Iíd been meaning to restore it, so I got started. Itís a fun project, but not enough to write about. Pirogues are a prime example of how things went to the dogs around here after 1492. You take a good Indian invention like the dugout canoe and make it a pirogue and the next thing you know people are flipping them all over the place. Take a good idea like a dugout canoe and somebody always thinks they can improve on it. Organize it. Expedite it. Gimme a break. We used to put 40 warriors in a 30-foot canoe and have them paddle all the way to Lake Salvador. Try that in your pirogue, pilgrim.
Did Twain have days like this? Hawthorne? Kipling? For cryiní out loud, not ThurberÖ?
Anybody got a waste basket? Thatís the thing about computers and word processors. Itís not satisfying to just highlight and delete. In the old days, you wrote something and didnít like it, you could rip the paper out of the typewriter, crumble it up noisily and throw it into the waste basket. Much more satisfying.
Oh well. Until next time, Iíll be thinking of something.