Monday, June 20, 2011

DOLDRUMS

I'm the "persistence" guy, right? I wrote a whole book of essays on the the subject. It's ironic, then, that I find myself in the persistent doldrums. I can hardly bring myself to write. I chastise myself for failing to find anything new or interesting to say. I wake in the morning without an idea in my head, and without the slightest motivation to write another post. The only thing I feel is an unforgiving sense of guilt for not being able to do myself what I have urged others to do: persist.

I was talking about this to my friend Brian at dinner the other evening. At least he helped me find a way to laugh about it. We concluded it was time to take the opposite approach. Write some essays titled "It's Not Worth It," or "Why Bother"? "Chuck It In" might be another good topic. Or "Time to Quit." There was an interesting op-ed piece in this morning's New York Times, "In Praise of Not Knowing." With so much information instantly available to us, we are suffering from a surfeit of knowledge. The author, Tim Kreider, concluded that "learning how to transform mere ignorance into mystery, simply not knowing into wonder, is a useful skill. Because it turns out that the most important things in this life--why the universe is here instead of not, what happens to us when we die, how the people we love really feel about us--are things we're never going to know."

I like that idea, and I see it as somehow related to my problem. It's like I have reached a plateau in my writing where I know what I'm doing, I kind of understand the things I talk about, and for this reason I get bored with myself, get bored with the sound of my own voice. I wish I'd just shut up. And I do toy with the idea of shutting up. Not blogging. Not writing tedious essays. Not trying to understand or explain things, even to myself. Not endlessly stroking my own ego with the imagined importance of what I have to say. Instead, I'd like to be able to "transform mere ignorance into mystery, simply not knowing into wonder." But I'm not sure how to go about it.

At our sangha this morning, after our hour's sit, talk turned to the matter of "letting go." I have two books in progress, one of which--the one I put on the back burner in order to concentrate on the newer one--is tentatively titled "This Is Not Me." The essays in this book have all to do with my interest in letting go parts of myself that are no longer particularly useful but which I cling to simply because I have so much identity wrapped up in them. Suppose I were to let go of "the writer"? A dreadful, fearsome thought. But a challenging one. I might just launch myself into the mystery, the wonder of it all...

5 comments:

mandt said...

Take a week sabbatical, go up into the mountains or desert by yourself and do nothing but listen.....it works wonders....peace, m

loritapaints said...

peter, do you think that if you write a book about all the things that are no longer you, that you're actually still holding on to them? seems like a spiritual oroboro...anyway...

after reading your post i was reminded of years ago when i was reading "big sur and the oranges of hieronymus bosch" and henry miller was always approached with questions of "how to" write when one has writers block...i remember distinctly that his advice was to write about how he (the blocked writer) felt and to describe in writing...i remembered this again, reading your post...i think you answered your question somewhere in there...

Craig said...

This is an enjoyable post to read. I like the 'naked commentary' you offer about your writing quandary. I've only read your blog a few times, and now I'm very curious to see where it's heading.

I go through periods where my work comes into question. I lose heart and just want to do something different, immerse myself into a new world. Sometimes I go with the urge to make big changes, and sometimes I keep on keeping on.

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks, MandT. Sage advice. See today's entry.

Oh, yes, Lorita. I know that the answer is always in the question! As for the clinging, I think I need to take a good look at what it is I'm clinging to before I can let it go.

Thanks for the comment, Craig. Like you, I do usually "keep on keeping on"! I'll be glad to have you with me as the journey continues.

Anonymous said...

It's just time to rest for awhile and reflect on small issues while the world spins. What you do counts way beyond your expectations and it fills a void many do not dare to contemplate.

Persist even now!