Feb 11, 2008

Failed Pachbel

by Rene Allen

I’ve had the flu but with pineapple juice, Robitussin and time I’m much better. However, a month of downtime seriously stalled my brain. I’m desperate for inspiration, even from the lowly telephone. “Talk to me you piece of plastic. Tell me your secrets. What would life be like without you?”

Alas, the phone is silent. Even the mystical strains of "Pachabel’s Canon" that lead into contemplation of the existential onion are unable to budge this mental numbness. It’s the Blogger’s Void, the great space in the brain that comes from too much Fox News and the vacuum of recumbent inertia.

Nonetheless, there is a looming deadline and I am searching for something pithy which means with substance and point.

Perhaps this emptiness is punishment for the blog in which I confessed my craving for Atticus Finch and meat to a sorority of ANWA sisters. Just so you know, I can do humble pie. If even a single idea would emerge from the murky subconscious I would do it; I would say, sorry ladies, I was ostentatious, and now, breath of fresh air, I have something to work with, a solitary, luminous idea. Obviously, there is not even one.

So, I turn to other writers for inspiration dismantling the block. Anne Lamott in "Bird by Bird" said write three hundred words then live a slice of real life and fill back up. You’re empty, she says. Oh—and accept it. “There are few experiences as depressing as the anxious barren state known as writer’s block, where you sit staring at your blank page like a cadaver, feeling your mind congeal, feeling your talent run down your leg and into your sock. . . . Writer’s block is going to happen to you.”

Ray Bradbury in "Zen and the Art of Writing" starts his day reading poetry. But he is so prolific I wonder if he even knows how to spell block.

In "Writing Down the Bones", Natalie Goldberg suggests that when we become boring and sick of ourselves, we should make a change: “dye your hair green, paint your nails purple, get your nose pierced, dress as the opposite sex, perm your hair.” For added effect, she puts an unlit cigarette in her mouth.

I’m feeling much better. My brain is just as empty, but even I recognize good company. Since its noon and I’m writing in my nightgown perhaps I should give up decadence and get dressed. This in itself might be inspiring. Then I shall read a poem, perhaps the one by Gallway Kinnel called “Blackberry Eating.”

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched or broughamed,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy black language
of blackberry eating in late September.

many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps /which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well . . . Yum.

There is perhaps one more thing: to pull together my memory and recall other times when I have stared at the page and felt the blahs of the great void, and remember that yes, they did pass, and the lovely flow came.


  1. I can relate here. Sometimes the real life stuff overwhelms me and the creative side gets covered up; I say snow but then it never snows in Gulf Shores. Keep at it. It does come back.

  2. Wow, I love it. That blackberry poem is wonderful as are you musing about nothing which turn out to be everything. Well done.

  3. Wow...for not knowing what to say, you said so much. The blackberry poem is wonderful. I miss wild blackberries. You evoked some vivid memories. Thank you!

  4. Crap...you stole my idea. Hehe. I am seriously sitting here tonight, trying to come up with my own blog. So, no I have to go to plan B or was the C or maybe even D, F and G.

    I seriously could never have written about not being able to write so eloquently!

  5. Wow, Rene. For an 'empty brain' you pull out an extensive vocabulary, research notes, wide reading memory, and a knack for describing empty to full like no other. You're amazing. Look forward to seeing you at the convention.


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