Friday, April 15, 2005

Retreat: a reply to Strychnos Nux Vomica

Today, an unexpected reminder of past work through the post of a friend: Chaise Longue - a short story I wrote pseudonymously in Toronto in the winter of 2002.

I remember, clearly, how I spent that unusually balmy winter: unemployed and plagued by writer's block; a cruel combination. I wrote Chaise Longue one early morning in a sudden feverish fit of fiery inspiration. The result was a story about a chair, a chaise longue - a psychiatrist's couch. The work was very therapeutic. An excerpt:
One patient views the psychiatrist's chair as a retreat, a peaceful island in the middle of a violent river; she's safe for now, but at the end of her allotted time, she will need to swim back the way she came through the river's tumultuous waters. The next patient sees the chair as a boat crossing the river Styx - safe, and guided, but Hades waits on the opposite shore. Can the ferryman really be trusted?

The general gist of the piece, (which you can't really get from the above paragraph), is that we tend to look for problems in our lives where there aren't really any. Having a problem gives us something to talk about. Having a problem makes us whole. Having a problem often makes us, and therein lies the real problem. In The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), the artist writes:
"I decided to go for psychiatric treatment, as so many people I knew were doing. I felt that I should define some of my own problems - if, in fact, I had any - rather than merely sharing vicariously in the problems of friends.

Because I felt I was picking up the problems of friends, I went to a psychiatrist in Greenwich Village and told him all about myself. I told him my life story and how I didn't have any problems of my own and how I was picking up my friends' problems, and he said he would call me to make another appointment to we could talk some more, and then he never called me."

Is writer's block a myth? Oftentimes, we say we have it, but maybe it's simply wishful thinking, laziness, an excuse to not write. Writer's block is fashionable, after all; to suffer from it, one must really be a writer... right?

At any rate, I'm suffering from a serious case of writer's block right now. I'm off to have a pint and a slice of pizza - try to catch some of that so called inspiration all the kids are talking about.

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