Uncomfortably Numb

I was going to write this post about nutritionists. There seemed to be reason enough, I need to see a nutritionist and I’m naturally skeptical of any profession where the majority of practitioners’ websites feature dubious strings of letters behind their names in Papyrus font. I even learned something: Dieticians require a certain amount of training, study, and accreditation, while anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. So, technically, I’m in the market for a dietician. But that’s not what this blog post is about.

Recently I’ve been so uninspired I’ve thought of shutting down Jerk Ethic, scrapping the bullshit Twitter, deleting Like It (which is in such a state of neglect that I think my computer would actually scream out a "Hallelujah!" if I did so,) and resigning myself to a life of quietude, loneliness, and social networking abstinence. Where I used to approach updating Jerk Ethic with a brain-itching giddiness, I now look at it like a dentist’s appointment. A dentist located in Cleveland,  in an office that only plays a bluegrass Creed tribute album on the speakers, and who has professional arm-wrestlers as assistants. In lieu of Friday night drinking binges, it has become my new way to ruin my Saturday morning.

Why is this? According to some sites, blog writers inevitably run out of steam. Symptoms? Less frequent posts and posting about the blog itself. (Guilty as charged.) I rail against this on two fronts: one, I actually got half-way through a post about a different topic and, two, this post will tie into what started me writing it in the first place. Namely the reason why I’m uninspired. I think it might have to do with work. I’m not going to stop the navel-gazing exercise that is blogging. Even if I have to look at it as a weekly appointment for a word processing root canal, I’ll do it. The trick seems to be finding something to write about that’s inspiring – which is a sentence that makes me want to tattoo "GRANOLA" on my forehead. In papyrus font.

After a few years of working together, Simon and I have developed a rhythm. We work nearly six days a week, and we’re still hunting for more clients. Currently we’re busy, really busy. It’s fantastic. When we look back on those months where we almost got evicted, or split a can of beans for a meal, it’s humbling and kinda odd to see that we’re still financially struggling, but we’re also up to our eyeballs in work. A lot of these projects are labor intensive, they require frequent phone calls, emails, redrafts. They’re a big deal, both to those clients who have hired us, and to ourselves. We take pride in our work. We stress about it. Often we can be seen out on a Friday night, engaging in what looks like it can only be the Worst Date Ever: both of us either on our mobile devices or scribbling in our notepads, completely ignoring the other person and our beverages. We talk about work so much that it’s become a new rule that after five, we don’t. I love being busy, but at the end of the day, I feel like my brain is made of spiders. I want to stare at something pretty and eventually fall asleep.

 

Simon is slightly different. He paces his workday with frequent breaks to gorge on images, his meditation object of choice. He’ll pore over countless jpegs and URLS, assaulting his eyes until he goes back to the blinking cursor. This works for him in two ways, he’s able to let his gray matter take a cigarette break and he’s also finding fodder for Stare Hard, his uber-awesome image blog. I’m not so lucky. Born from a workaholic and an obsessive compulsive, I have trouble with the notion of "breaks." Though medical science proves that breaks are good for the neurological components of memory blah blah blah big words doctor stuff, I don’t care. You know what’s good for the brain? Working and making money. Fun, and the rabbit hole of the Innerwebs, can wait.

So when it comes time to leave my workday of writing for my hobby of writing, it’s safe to say that after two years my right cerebral cortex is no longer fooled. I’m uninspired, writing for fun feels like a chore. An unpaid, thankless gig. Actual work, with its promise of a paycheck and occasional creative "Eureka!" moments, is sometimes much more fun. It’s also as ego gratifying as a one-night-stand where she actually calls you when a client is truly grateful and wowed by what you’ve done. Write a blog and you might get a comment. Chances are it’s from somebody you slept with. Or a spammer. (Thanks, guys.)

A little over a week ago I saw Henry Rollins at a place here in New York that’s now called The Fillmore, but used to be called Irving Plaza. Back when I was a scrappy little alterna-teen I saw Live play there and my friend Danny got kicked in the face while moshing. His mom was pissed and we were both grounded. I also saw Rollins Band perform around that time, I guess it was ’94 or ’95. The show was at Roseland Ballroom, and security put me under the police line because I was so small they thought I would get crushed (total bummer, until I realized that they were probably right and I was now one inch away from being backstage.) Rollins’ show that night changed my life, and although one could argue that I was fourteen and my life changed every time I put on the radio, I still remember it in a way that impacts the way I write. There was something about seeing a man so focused on what he was doing, his intensity was nothing short of petrifying. I remember he was whipping the mic cord around as he performed and the lashes he inflicted on himself caused huge red welts to form. I was thinking to myself, "Jesus Christ, this guy is going to kill someone. He is going to jump off stage and kill someone because that’s what his art makes him do." I read nearly all of his books, starting with Get in the Van and reading each release from 2.13.61 that came after. I wanted to find a way to hone in on writing the way that Henry Rollins did on performing. I compared my preteen years to his work with Black Flag, but that once I got to college I’d be the finely-tuned machine that he’d become in his solo career. I’d search and destroy with my words.

Of course we all know how the story goes, I got to college and drank and fucked and graduated, got a decent nine-to-five job, and wrote on the side. My dreams of being the most hardcore writer who ever lived fell behind priorities like paying rent and finding a nice girl to call a wife. Eventually, after drinking myself to ineptitude, I lost both. I started doing slam poetry, the single most narcissistic exercise in writing, other than blogging. (To keep the Rollins comparison going, if pure art is like a Rollins show, slam poetry is like a Blink 182 poster being sold at Hot Topic.) After going sober and hooking up with Simon, I got my shit together again. My priorities reorganized, writing became key. Although I didn’t strip my life down to only the most basic necessities like Mr. Rollins supposedly does, I keep my life simple. I don’t drink, I eat clean, I try to get eight hours of sleep a night, and I exercise. I keep my body in the best, most healthy shape in order to keep my mind as uncluttered as possible. I always try to keep moving forward when it comes to work and creativity, I think that’s what led me to write this post, I feel stagnant, and I’m not going to lie about it. I believe that my total indifference to the topics I’m approaching shines through. I’m like a bad stripper, she’s doing all the motions with dead eyes.

The Rollins show I saw most recently was his Frequent Flyer Tour, a spoken word gig where he takes on topics ranging from visiting Sri Lanka to Sarah Palin’s stand-up comedy to Bad Brains. I’m not sure if all the shows are similar, I suppose they must have some common structure, but the two hours came across more like a conversation with a friend who stopped into town for a night and wanted to catch up over coffee. Although we’re nearly fifteen years removed from that night where I saw the man clad in nothing more than black gym shorts, barefoot, screaming until the muscles in his neck were like ropes, he still held the same intensity. I was still captivated, as were much of the crowd. I wondered if Henry Rollins had found the secret. Of course, he could have tried to continue performing musically. It would have been fine, he would have sold possibly just as many tickets. But I remember when I saw Depeche Mode in 2000 or 2001, in a huge arena. It was the most soul-crushing moment for my youth. The guys were old. They moved with less pep, more caution. Dave Gahan was still able to belt ‘em out, but his voice was creakier. The age I had tried to deny when I looked in the mirror every morning was being confirmed by my idols on stage. Henry Rollins thankfully seemed to realize that hopping around onstage in gym attire at fifty might be fun, but in order to keep both his creativity and relevance in top form, it’s better to adapt. Hence the spoken word tour. And my awareness that in order to keep myself from going stale, I have to figure out a new approach. I’m just not sure what it is yet.

Early on in this blog, I wrote to a bunch of people I respected, asking them how they stayed engaged in writing from personal experience. I was looking for clues how to prevent exactly what I’m feeling now. The majority of the more famous individuals I tried to contact didn’t write back, understandably. But I unexpectedly received a response from Henry Rollins. He wrote, "I keep changing the environment so the writing stays alive. That’s the attempt anyway." It’s time for me to step outside my comfort zone and listen.