Unabridged Me


An undisciplined artist faces writer’s block

September 16, 2020

Most writers will tell you there is a special purgatory saved just for the writer who cannot write. Each experiences writer’s block differently, interpreted through our own sense of art.

For me, the void begins slowly as words lose their importance. Thoughts still run through my head like a babbling brook of meaning, a constant story telling me about what I sense and feel in the world. Despite the existence of these thoughts, I cannot find any words that strike the right balance in communication, of sharing how a world of observation and imagination are playing out within my head. The slope steepens as my feelings and thoughts separate, my writing taking on a distanced and unemotional tone as letters are typed onto a blank screen but my feelings and interpretations have fled to a quiet corner inside myself. The last stop in my downward slide is when my intellect flees for more fertile ground, objective observations abandoning me to sit in a dark abyss without words.

Most writers will tell you that writing is the essence of who we are. People will ask why did you want to be a writer? There is no answer for this question. I have always written, sometimes as a means to release intense emotion and, within the last few years, as an art to share with the world. A block in writing means a part of a writer is gone, like an existential arm that has been amputated. We feel its presence though it does no good for us.

Artists and scientists the world around, both contemporary and historical, will say that solitude is a necessity for art. I contemplate this question as I engage in a staring match with my writer’s block. Am I too busy in the world? Has the chaos of remote schooling and pandemic and all the things that have occurred in the last year pulled me outside of myself, building a blockade within my own mind? The idea has merit. After all, some of my best stories were written while my daughter was in school and I sat in a silent house as my mom slept through her illness.

No, I reject this answer.

Though deafening silence was my companion as I wandered through the daily routine of medical procedures, I was not alone. I was immersed in a constant tension of life versus death, stubborn will versus disease, and the quiet regret and resentment of my mother versus the bubbling life and action of my daughter. My art is not that of philosophy or great thoughts of innovation and imagination, requiring isolation from impeding distractions. My art is the underlying emotion and motivations that drive humans as they interact with each other and the world.

Could it be my own perfectionism and expectations are getting in the way of communicating with my muse? That I push away my writing as inconsequential as I compare myself to a world full of people who interpret and create breathtaking beauty? Also an idea with merit. I am my own worst critic, suffering from imposter syndrome with almost every endeavor.

Again, this has not stopped me before. My own harsh judgement of my writing does not stop me from writing. Instead, it propels me forward to find more unique ideas, combine more perfect words, and paint a more thorough world for a reader.

As I stare deep into the eyes of my adversary, I must be honest with myself. My writer’s block is a creation of being an undisciplined artist. Solitude is my friend, yet I am lazy when I have time to myself. The challenge to create the most perfect feeling drives my creativity, yet I do not accept the challenge. I allow my ideas to flow in and out of my consciousness without proper attention. I have neglected my muse so long that she no longer wishes to visit me.

Yes, I am an undisciplined artist. Also, I accept I have cut off my own arm with an unwillingness to sit down and confront feelings locked inside my chest. I have set my tools on fire in an attempt to move forward in life. I have abandoned the one thing that gives me release in this life.

Despite these choices, the urge to write still pulls at me daily, creating additional pain as I struggle to find words and ideas. Today this urge spilled out as I am no longer able to hold in my need to write and my frustration at sitting in the void. A friend said to me just sit and write. Even if it is crap, words on a page is better than nothing.

So today I just write.

Brains and Houses

November 11, 2017

I was haunted.

Losing my mind, sleep deprivation, fainting spells, neurons firing odd, neuropathy in the extremities, hearing things, straight up losing my mind. I was going blind in one eye, which happened once during pregnancy due to blood flow but not before or after, and my tinnitus was so severe I felt like I was standing under major power lines at all times.

Medical science had little to offer me. Given an MRI, came back clean. Awesome, except still didn’t know what was wrong.

My grandmother-in-law said I brought back something from Panama, though it started before going. Abuelita (Ita, as Vivian calls her) is old school Native American/Spanish, but damned if Vivian didn’t suddenly have a new imaginary friend.

So less than six months after purchasing and moving into a house, I was ready to walk. Didn’t care if we lost on it, I needed out.

It wasn’t just about my mental state. Though my mental state could have been self-created due to my complete discomfort and extreme stress at work.

For the entire time I had lived in Denver, I hadn’t lived further than a 15 block radius. And I loved where we were. Five minutes from downtown, readily available public transit, walk to parks and the longer I was there the more markets and shops were available.

My mom thought I was crrrraaaazzzzyyyyy.

At least when I was renting on the North side of the main street, I was near a synagogue and the Hasidic community kept it pretty low key.

I move eight blocks away, the other side of the main street, and suddenly I am in the barrio. Cholos working on their cars and having “yard sales” of football jerseys several times a week. Rottweilers behind fences, and a hybrid church having services at 2 am. The kicker for my mom was Denver Housing Authority located not even a block away.

I was good with it.

Two reasons why.  First, I lived in the neighborhood for years and witnessed changes. Lightrail was going in just a couple blocks south, opening the entire corridor to young, educated, well paid individuals who work downtown.

Sucky thing about public transit. It goes in to help those who do not have transportation. However, the result is to push those same individuals further out of the urban area where there is no public transit as the section of town becomes gentrified by professionals wanting to live near downtown.

At least in Denver. Read a study on it, and watched it happen in real life. Unintended consequences of ideological intent.

But from my perspective, first home purchase needed to be a financial investment. I was heavily laden with student loans and both of us worked for a big box retailer not making much more than poverty. We bought in where we could afford, with me seeing all the signs of having a decent return within five years.

In case you were wondering, and even if you weren’t, I was reared by two very left brained business and accountant minded individuals. Financial brains are apparently genetic. Or nurture. But that is a different discussion.

Second, the house was my ideal, albeit a slight compromise due to being half a duplex. A 1923 Craftsman bungalow with all the original details intact, like bookcases around the coal fireplace and trim around windows and doors, plus a finished basement with a lowered floor as a modern living room.

Living there was a labor of love, redoing the kitchen and making the house a work of art. And yes, I had our return in less than my goal of 5 years.

The neighborhood started turning early. For about 8 months I watched the neighborhood, the investors come through, the sales prices. And in true me fashion, I said out of the blue it’s time to sell.

So we sold. In a sellers market.

Which was great except when it came time to buy.  Our agent wasn’t great, she let me lead, which wasn’t smart because I was emotional about being homeless with a toddler and I was leaving a home I designed and loved and couldn’t afford the same neighborhood any longer and….

So we ended up on the other side of town. Still in the city of Denver, not in urban Denver. Me and suburbs, no bueno.

Should have known the first night I wouldn’t make it. It was too damn quiet. Like seriously, quiet! And we weren’t even in a good part of the suburbs, because there is always the part of me that sees potential and refuses to pay top in an already awesome neighborhood when I can live in a not awesome neighborhood and get more for my money.

Plus people who live in ideal neighborhoods are not my ideal neighbors. They are pretentious and ridiculous and bore me beyond tears.

In fact, a running joke with my previous co-workers is I like my neighborhoods rough. I never had any problems, all the violence in my life came from people I knew.

Beyond not being able to see the skyline, and having to drive 20 minutes to downtown, and living in an area where the oldest house was 1950’s ranch, and having to drive the industrial corridor, and…  I missed my old neighborhood.

Sounds of trains and freeways, ghetto birds (a.k.a. police helicopters), and yes there were guns. Though it was usually a shotgun in the air during a party.

We did find some suspicious bones in the back yard when planting a garden. The area had a much rougher past than when we lived there. No questions, no answers, leave the past where it lies.

But the new neighborhood was different. Eerily quiet, with cameras on the streets watching everything, a sense of something about to break at any minute. And gun violence, like drive by shooting at houses gun violence.

Guns in themselves don’t bother me, but it was sense of fear and apprehension. People were violent in both neighborhoods, but in the second neighborhood people were afraid of authority as much as anyone else.

In our old neighborhood, make eye contact, be friendly, don’t get in their business and they don’t get in yours.

So regardless the physical insanity descending upon me, I needed to move. And we did. Like I said, we couldn’t afford our old neighborhood so we moved a bit north. Oddly enough, closer to downtown and in an even more ideal house.

My kind of neighborhood. Still rough, definitely not an easy past, though changing quickly. Haven’t heard the ghetto birds as much, and only shotguns were on 4th of July. Unfortunately a lot of the neighbors are already insufferable, but I don’t exactly take cookies to every door so who cares.

No strange medical symptoms, never found out what was wrong, and Vivian is back to her hands and feet being her imaginary friends.

I’m going to pretend that’s normal until told otherwise.