Obviously I’ve been slipping into a state of creative inertia. See also writer’s block. See also laziness. As someone pointed out to me yesterday; “You’re making lists now. That spells trouble.”
I have nothing to say, certainly nothing illuminating to add to the universe. I’ve even thought, in my lazier moments, of taking a little vacation from writing, but I’m too afraid that I would never return from such a vacation. And if writing is what brings me the most satisfaction and serenity, not writing feels like a living death. And since I equate not writing with the period in which I was snorting a lot of crystal meth and hyperventilating whenever I’d leave the house, I get a tiny bit anxious when the well seems to have run dry. It hasn’t run dry, but I let myself get too tired to haul up the bucket. Or too afraid that a couple of snakes will be swimming around in there. How’s that for a heavy-handed metaphor? That’s just brilliant, Michael.
I need a certain amount of silence to write. If a few days pass without writing, I start becoming afraid of that silence; I fill the void with music, television, movies, anything that will “keep me company” rather than sitting there with all the schizoid voices ricocheting around my head. Honestly, I’m always just a few steps away from winding up in an institution. I don’t mean that as a slight against the mentally ill, for I most certainly belong to that club. I heard someone share at a meeting the other day that when he was in a treatment center, his counselor told him that when he’s spending too much time alone at home, Get out, there’s a KILLER in the house!
Fortunately I’ve suffered through enough of these periods that I am beginning to see them as all part of the process. This morning I again picked up my copy of Art and Fear (which he recommended), which always reminds me that the only way to get art made is to just make it. I hate it when they make it that simple. It takes away all the fun of drowning in my own little sea of neuroses.
Part of the problem is that it’s late September already. Back in the spring and summer it was easy to say “Yeah, I’m going to apply to grad school for next year”. But now, with only three months before application deadlines, the reality is setting in. I have to start organizing a million disparate pieces; essays and transcripts and letters of recommendation, each school with its own set of peculiar instructions. And above all, I must choose 20-30 pages of my very best writing, as 90% of the schools’ decisions are based on the manuscript, no matter how glowing those letters of recommendation may be.
Which reminds me, I’m open to hearing your opinions on what (if any) of my various “pieces” are the strongest. It’s a lot to ask, I know, but I’m not always the best judge of my own writing. I’m also stubborn as hell, so in the end I may just pick a couple of pieces regardless of anyone’s advice. But I’m trying to be a little more open-minded about asking for help. Also, if you or anyone you know has some personal knowledge or experience with the nonfiction departments of various MFA programs, I’d be happy to hear from you. I’m specifically looking at a few schools in/around NYC: The New School, Columbia, and Sarah Lawrence. I got some good advice from Phillip Lopate when I worked with him, but more info is welcome. I feel strangely superstitious about identifying the schools I’m interested in. But there’s so much information that you can’t glean from a school’s catalogue; the kind of information you want when considering investing a chunk of money into your education. As in, does the program suck or not? Is the school a snakepit of insecure, backstabbing bitches? Which professors require bi-weekly blowjobs to get an A? You know, normal questions.
I can’t quite believe that I am setting into motion a chain of events that could result in major changes to my everyday life. Just when things were starting to quiet down. Maybe that’s the reason. Maybe I need a little chaos in my life. I guess there’s one underlying motivation: I don’t want to be an old man, looking back and wondering “what if?” I’m sure that everyone else in the nursing home would get SO tired of me asking that, over and over, driving them all away from my table in the corner of the cafeteria.