Some radio silence here in Ridlerville. CON JOB is out in the world, the revisions to the third (and perhaps last) Spar Battersea novel is getting done. Had about four weeks of bad news I’m still shaking off, but The Ridler Abides. Working my way through a creative flux. So it goes.
So, here’s some stuff.
1. If you haven’t, go watch Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech. It’s a good kick in the pants. It’s also nice to have a calm voice about the future in the arts instead of a screed/rant/polemic/snakeoilpitch/guru screaming at you.
2. Paul Fussell, veteran, historian, writer, has died at 88. He’s best known for THE GREAT WAR AND MODERN MEMORY, a powerful synthesis of literary/art history and military history. I wish more people followed in his wake (I’m not as much drum and trumpet type).
3. I don’t know that I’ve ever suffered from writer’s block, as it’s described: a fight to get words out. I’m usually good for a fight. What I’ve experienced, in fits and starts through ten years of doing this stuff, is writer’s apathy. It’s an insidious feeling. You come to do the work you’re meant to do, you did all the stuff you normally do, you’ve got an idea that you were jazzed about . . . and then the enthusiasm that acts as the firing pistol for your imagination goes cold and silent. You try the usual tricks to restart the race, get the blanks back in the chamber . . . and no dice. It’s an awful feeling. Because if left to its own devices, it infects other things, and ideas. That list of projects you’d loved to write just looks like a waste of everyone’s time, including your own.
Apathy is usually a temporary state, brought on by internal and external factors. You can bull through it, sometimes. You can ignore it, sometimes. But most times, the best thing to do is listen to it, ask it questions, try and unpack it. Whatever else apathy is, it’s a clue. Sometimes the clues start to add up to a picture you weren’t expecting. Or wanting. If left unchecked, it ruins everything, of course. But to keep it in check, you have to listen and consider it.
I did this recently. I’d worked harder than I perhaps thought, and needed a little break from my usual breakneck speed. I also stopped writing a novel I didn’t much care about. I spent a lot of time in my own head, and on paper, trying to figure out why the apathy was still there. I tried experimenting with stories, writing to music, and it shook things out, too. I questioned my motives. I read books looking for answers. I collected some clues.
What did they add up to in my case? Breathing room. The long view. Getting a lot of the noise that had been running like a silent motor out of my head. Starting to believe in the freedom to create again, and enjoying the fear and joy that comes along with that realization. Other junk.
I don’t know if there’s a capstone to these thoughts so much as a step forward. Got some projects I seem keen on. Feeling like I got a spark of Ridler madness again, but this time a different color. Maybe it’s just natural, after a decade at the wheel, that I need to shake things up.
What’s next on the plate? In time, true believers. In time.