Hey Peeps…I know, long time no see…
Book Two is kicking my ass right about now, but I’m happy to inform you guys that it’s coming together nicely! Maybe by April I might start running a few excerpts, but don’t hold me to that. I’d like to start some advance readings as well, you know, to get that all important buzz a-buzzing, so you can look out for that as well. Probably in early April if I can swing it.
Funny thing though, during December and January I was cruising right along, but towards the end of January I ran smack into something unexpected. A little thing I like to call: The Creature from the block Lagoon.
Yep, I’m talking about Writer’s Block.
It was unexpected because since I’ve been in Japan it has rarely happened to me, which is (for the record: for all you folks who’ve read posts of mine, or even my book, and concluded that the simplest and most obvious solution is to remove myself from the equation and leave Japan) one of the things I love about this country: there’s always something I consider to be worthy of my time to write about, something I feel strongly enough about to write extensively about. Living here has made me damn near prolific! And in doing so I was able to find my voice and refine my craft and all that writer’s crap you hear about. It’s all true. Well, most of it is, anyway. And if the price of becoming a better writer is the annoyances and humiliations one has to tolerate here in kawaiiland, it seems to me a relatively small price to pay.
Hell is the trail to writing well!
Ask any most writers, they’ll tell you some variation of the same.
And, besides, as Kurt Vonnegut once said when speaking on writing, “Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.”
And, here in Japan, I believe I have done just that.
So this writer’s block nonsense took me completely by surprise.
I stressed over it for a few days wondering, first, if it were a sign that it was time to take my leave of Kawaiiland. That living here had taken its toll on me and left my resources depleted. But, a simple inventory informed me that that was not the case. I still got juice!
The second dark thought was that it was a sign that I had committed the worst sins I imagined I could ever commit in respect to Japan and writing about the challenges of living here –challenges posed by both natives and NJ alike — and they are the sins of acquiescence and capitulation. But, I soon shook that one off as well. Every time I leave my door that thought is tested by damn near the first person I see. And I get enough fan mail and kudos for my book, really thoughtful and heartfelt messages of support and encouragement from intuitive and intelligent readers, that any notion that I was ready to throw in the towel held no water. (mixing metaphors, I know)
The last possible cause for this so-called blockage was the scariest and most potent, however. It rocked my world for a spell. And it was this: Have I truly succumbed to hate and, subconsciously, would rather not write than write hate speak?
Oh yes, that thought was rocket fuel injected and kept me up several nights, damn near in despair.
I mean, I could feel this hate growing, twisting my insides. Like when I’d read or see anything positive done by foreigners living here about life in Japan, or God forbid, anything dismissive about the situation on the ground here, I’d feel literally sick to my stomach. I despise these enablers, more than I despise those they enable. There’s either an ignorance to what they’re saying I feel needs to be eradicated with extreme prejudice, or a contempt in their actions that I take personally, a direct assault.
And who wants to write with such thoughts muscling positive, constructive thoughts out of the way for release into this world?
Especially with the editing and revising of Book Two in full swing. Last thing I needed was these kinds of thoughts inserting themselves into an otherwise scintillating and lighthearted (mild exaggeration) collection of humorous and thoughtful anecdotes and essays on the lighter side of living in Japan.
So, I put the project on pause.
However, from experience, I knew I could NOT put writing on pause. That’s a no-no. Procrastination and hesitation are death to a writer. I’d sooner write badly than not write at all.
Instead, I decided to treat this obstruction like an anti-coagulate does a blood clot, or Liquid Plumber does your pipes. The aim was to surgically remove the obstruction between my ideas and my fingers, whatever gook might be in there. I say surgically because if this is done clumsily or haphazardly I’ve learned it can actually exacerbate the problem. By over acknowledging its existence you’re inadvertently feeding it. And being that, at that point, I was operating on the premise that a seething and growing hate was the obstruction, I certainly didn’t want to give that anything to sink its teeth into.
I hope y’all are able to follow me. I suspect the creative folk among you can fully get me for I’m sure such considerations must rise to prominence in their thinking from time to time as well.
This surgical procedure would require certain equipment:
1- Books: Reading is more than fundamental, it’s therapeutic. Think of reading as sterilizing your hands before the surgical procedure begins. Me? I soaped up my hands with a book called “Up in Mahaica” by G. Modele Clarke. The book is so damn good I couldn’t even finish it before the clot began un-clotting.
2- Exercise: Think of exercise as the anesthesia before you begin the procedure. Actual physical exertion does wonders. I was on some “once a week” shit until this blockage occurred. That’s when I upped my dosage to daily. Hate, and most other dark thoughts and feelings, don’t know what to do when endorphins kick in. And sweat is a rogation for the soul! But you can’t afford to ignore your inner Exercising your body is hardly enough, though. You also have to exercise your wit and talent in a safe and creative space. So, I crawled out of my cave and joined a writer’s group. The Tokyo Writer’s Salon meets several times over the course of a month in Nogizaka Tokyo and is coordinated by a brilliant woman I’ve spoken about before on LIY named Lauren Shannon. It is well attended by a goodly mix of amateur and professional writers. It’s just what the doctor ordered, a circle of uncompetitive creativity. I’m hooked now!
3- Subject: Choose wisely. Like Vonnegut said, find something you really care about and go for it. Thank of subject as your scalpel. You want your incision to be incisive, to cut right through to the heart of the ailment. It only took me a heartbeat to find mine. You see, G. Modele Clarke was a teacher of mine when I was a kid attending that school many of you would know already for you’ve read my first book. A school whose primary purpose was raising the self-esteem and the political, cultural and historical awareness of black children by exposing them to what they wouldn’t be exposed to (or are underexposed to) with a public school education. That being, the significant and unrepresented contribution to people of african descent to world history overall and in particular to American history.
4- Love: I know, I know, all warm and fuzzy, and worse, obvious. Sorry. But, just in case you didn’t know, love is as strong as hate, and with a bit of this anti-coagulate on your side, you can unclog just about anything, from veins and arteries, to major organs and entire biological systems. For me, love teamed up with those endorphins pumping through my blood stream, and I was seated before a computer screen ready to write before I knew where I was, with a subject and a plan.
A plan that didn’t include Japan for a change.
I went to work on my other blog you guys may or may not know about, called Loco’s Patronus.
The plan: Black History Month (February) was coming and I decided to write a post a day (28 days, 28 posts) about a historical figure in black history. But, I knew if I did what so many other writers have already done and focused on the typical fare, the MLKs and Barack Obamas of black history, I would get bored before a week. I’d probably finish it just to say to myself that I kept writing, but it wouldn’t be done with the love this procedure calls for. I had to keep my eyes on the prize. So I put a spin on this plan: Each post had to be a story about how this particular historical figure affected my life on a personal level! A task I couldn’t possibly carry out without incorporating what existed in my heart aside from the burgeoning hate I suspected was there; namely love.
That’s all I needed. Think of love as a spiritual coronary angioplasty, widening those passages in your soul narrowed by flirting with and entertaining hateful thoughts.
As for the results of this surgical procedure? Well, they were KICK-ASS of course (if I must say so myself, though a few others would agree.) The readership over there is nowhere near LIY’s but that’s cool. It’s not the quantity it’s the quality, (or so they say…)
And, by the way, once I was inside there, performing this procedure, I realized what was causing the clog. It wasn’t hate at all. My fears were unfounded. It was coagulation caused by a recent romantic rupture, which had apparently damaged me much more than I was aware of. How I managed to overlook that possibility when I was assessing the cause of this blockage is open to conjecture, but I suspect it’s part of what lead to the rupture in the first place.
Live and learn, right? Trust me, surgically removing blockage this way might uncover all kinds of collateral paraphenalia. (Think of this stuff as shit left behind by incompetent surgeons…”Oh shit, we’re missing a sponge, people! Should we go back in?”) (-;
And if you want to read the astonishing result of this procedure, what unblocked arteries look like in story form, please check out my Black History Month Profiles 1-28 on Loco’s Patronus, as well as the poetry that assisted in this blockage removal. (Think of poetry as the balloon used during an angioplasty).
Some of my faves from this series?
#2: No More Water, The Fire Next Time!
#5: That Nigga in the Alley!
#7: Uncle Tom, Uncle Ruckus and Musical Alchemy
#9: See That Black Boy Over There Running Scared?
#12: That One-Eyed Negro Jew
#17: Filling the Black Hole in the Space Program
#19: Peckerwoods and Black Tits in Hollywood
#20: The Warrior Princess and The Reluctant Warrior
#22: A Panther, a Pimp, and a Prisoner
#28 Series Finale: March 2, 1941 – One Sunday in Savannah
But, honestly, they’re ALL pretty damn good!