Thursday, May 14, 2015

Writer's Block

I tell my college students all the time that the best way to escape writer's block is to start writing about whatever's on your mind.  It doesn't matter whether or not you have anything to say about the topic or if you make any mistakes.  You can fix things later.  Just pick up and start writing.  Don't think.  Just write.  Eventually, you'll find your way to where you want to go.

I've been stuck for a while.  No, it's not fair to say I'm stuck.  I'm not.  I have plenty to say.  And a ton of ideas.  So many stories started (and abandoned).  I keep listening to the song "Famous Last Words" by Billy Joel.  I want to know what made him stop writing songs.  Was he out of ideas?  Tired?  Bored?  A combination?

Maybe he couldn't say what he wanted to say.

I get that.  Stephen King once told me, "Write what you know."  What if I can't?  What if I'm not allowed to write what I want to write because I'm a schoolteacher?  There are just things that I can't put out there and expect to keep my job.  And let's face it, I'm writing for an audience now.  Sure, I can put words down in my blog and never post them.  Or I can write in a personal journal and not share.  For me, writing has gone beyond that.  I write to express my views with others.  Not to keep them to myself.  I have a file cabinet in my mind for that.  I categorize and have opinions on everything.  I just don't feel like I can share those the way I want.

Some teachers are willing to speak out.  Maybe they have more courage than I do.  Or maybe they're toeing the line.  There's no risk in that.  They're saying exactly what's expected of them.  Hollywood does the same thing.  Artists are held to certain expectations or risk blackball.  We're all struggling, disenfranchised Bohemians, right?

Don't you hate when people try so hard to be different that they end up playing a stereotype?  And, yes, I realize I'm implying that those who think they're nonconformists conform more often than not.  They do.  I don't.  Thus the fear.  It's not to say that I don't share the same views as my colleagues at certain times.  Of course, I do.  But what about when I don't?  Do I just shut the fuck up?  (Yes, Tommy, that's what you do.  You shut the fuck up.  Nobody needs to know what you think about sex, politics, or religion, especially not if you're going to rebuke the status quo.)

At a press conference before his sold out performances at Madison Square Garden in 1972, Elvis (dressed in a gorgeous sky-blue suit) replied that he preferred to keep his opinions to himself when asked for his thoughts about the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, and other political issues of his era.  Makes you wonder what he was thinking.  Maybe.  Or maybe you don't give a shit about the King's politics.  But when asked if he thought other entertainers should also keep quiet, he shook his head (a lock of shiny black hair bouncing across his forehead) and whispered, "No," almost with a smile.  Makes you wonder why he wouldn't talk.  What was keeping him quiet?  I guess we'll never know.

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