The Big Slump

I’m in a writing slump.  Not really writer’s block, just a slump.  Never prepared and out of energy.  The end of Daylight Savings time always gets to me.  I hate that it gets dark before I’ve even left work.  I hate that it leaves me confused about what time it is later in the evening, that my body seems to assume it’s midnight even when it’s only 7:30 and there’s still a lot of routine things to accomplish before going to bed.  And I hate the sunrise poking me awake at six in the morning.  I’ve been in denial for a week, as the dark circles under my eyes show.  In two more weeks I’ll have worked through the grief, but it won’t be until January and the holidays are over that I’ll have fully moved into acceptance of the obnoxious qualities of the time change.

Of course, that’s just a tiny cog in my excuse machine.  There’s also my personal stake and reaction to the recession, problems are creeping up for each member of my immediate family after a long drama-free period, and it’s football season, another colossal temptation to sit and spend hours on the couch.  But mostly it’s the onset of the colder weather, the shorter days, and the low hum of shifting priorities.  My head has been stuffy, meandering, popping with collapsible thoughts.  I believe in seasonal music.  Some bands are appropriate for certain months than others, and as I’ve left Sublime, Dr. Dog, Apples in Stereo and other sunny bands behind with the warm weather I’ve turned more to more down-tempo, scuttling leaves and cardigan sweaters types of music.  This seasonal change has been more jarring than it usual is, and I find the songs knocking me back into other phases of my life, old memories and timelines.  Like opening a box that’s been in the back of your closet: the trapped air escapes and transports you.

Not all my memories are bad, but I’ve noticed myself becoming more and more vulnerable to “My god, that was ten whole years ago!” moments.  It doesn’t help that they just released a remastered, 20th anniversary edition of Nirvana’s Bleach.  Getting older doesn’t bother me, but the compiling length of my life seems to.  As if at some point there will be too many memories to keep track of, too many chapters of my life to easily flip through.  And too many people.  Dozens of old friends who seem anomalous now, anachronistic, lost to other parts of the world, so far separated even Facebook can’t find them.  I’ve been burdened lately with these kinds of thoughts, poring over the past, searching it for new lessons, coming up with not a whole lot except regret or embarrassment.

Then there’s this story.  A story you, gentle reader, have only had the opportunity to read a few pages of, called “Open Hearted Dogs.”  A coming of age story set right after Hurricane Katrina.  It’s been assembling itself in my head for at least six months now, which is way to long to allow something to assemble itself because you end up with too many extra pieces.  What was going to be a simple short story is now three long stories about the same characters, but so many of these little scenes are interchangeable.  Organization and structure, those are the real sappers of energy in writing.  For me at least.  The rhythm, the length, the order.  But beyond that is the unnecessary pressure I put on myself about this particular story.  I want it to be great, I want it to convey the neighborhood I live in, some of the people that I know, some of the unknown conflicts and accomplishments that don’t make it into tidy disaster anniversary press releases.  But I’ve learned that it’s hard to write about New Orleans, even small, ordinary lives in New Orleans, without seeming overly sympathetic, overly dramatic.  And dwelling on the flood, the aftermath, the unique struggle of hundreds of thousands of people causes my mind to—as if in self-defense—veer towards cliché, towards sensationalism, towards stacking the odds in the favor of pity.  Which, to me, has never been real storytelling.

So…be patient.  There may be some more forgettable entries like this one on the horizon, but once I get over this slump we’ll be back cracking.  Thank god Nacho’s bringing us new material.  Go read Finzel!

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