And other answers to questions you didn’t ask.
“I’m going through Writers’ Block. I think it’s because of current affairs. What can I do?” — Wordless Woody
I once owed 3 minimum-length-3-page papers for 6 years. Back in the early ’90s, our worst political problem was not getting Hillarycare passed. They seriously used to call it that, you can look it up. It wasn’t like I was crushed by the stifling pressure of an oppressive regime. It was more that I was lazy and depressed, listening to the grunge music we kids liked back then and unmotivated to write about Piers Plowman. I had only taken a course on that Medieval Dream Vision because I thought a cute woman was taking it, too. When it turned out she wasn’t, I sulked. I drifted in and out of love with Piers Plowman and got an incomplete for not handing in the papers. I forgot about that class until it was offered again 4 years later. I still didn’t do any of the papers; my incompletes would have continued on into eternity. Except I had an epiphany: I could have used a lot more of those.
It didn’t occur to me, in all the time I spent avoiding doing 3 papers on Piers Plowman, that the papers didn’t have to be any good. It suddenly struck me, when my little brother alerted me that he was going to graduate from college before me and that I’d had a 4-year head start on him, that I could write crappy papers. That I should go all 5th Act Hamlet. Not in the murder way, just the motivated action stuff. I did a bunch of French labs that I’d put off for 4 years. I wrote three crappy papers that got C’s. And I graduated from college.
You might rather not write than write poorly. That is certainly your right. I’m more offended by the opposite, when people crank out crap constantly and easily. Writing isn’t fun. Not-writing-when-you’re-supposed-to-be-writing is fun. If you write for a living and can’t write, quit your job and get a team of sled dogs. Or get a job on a boat. That stuff worked for Jack London, and he was really good about making dogs’ lives seem interesting. Or take benzedrine. That worked pretty well for lots of writers for a while.
I’m having problems writing poems right now, probably because I don’t want to write haikus about covfefe. There was always sinister background noise in my poems. A dread that something bad was about to happen. Now we all experience that feeling every morning, just reading Twitter. If I skip my “Bad Trump Poem” phase, will I be ready for my “Bad President Bernie Poem” phase? Walt Whitman wrote tons of his most famous poems when Andrew Johnson was President. And that guy used to be the worst President ever. And you don’t see Uncle Walt yawping into his beard. His molecules were still everyone’s molecules.
Writers, in general, are lazy and whiny. Anyone who writes for a living and complains about it should have to work at a grocery store for the rest of their life. Trying to remember the code for lemons. Is it 4911? Or is that limes? Working at a grocery store is a real job. Writing is a pretend job people somehow get paid for. Write badly! Some editor will probably fix it! Now that’s a real job, dealing with whiny writers! What a thankless drunk kitten rodeo that is!
So just write badly. The only one who can probably tell the difference is you, and you’re gonna drink about it anyway. Writer’s block may keep you from making hot takes on “Orange is the New Black” but there will always be some other, hotter take down the road. Killing Piper off would be the best thing to ever happen to that show. And making Taystee the main character.
If The Trump Administration is freaking you out, you will not be prepared for the Pence Administration whatsoever. You’ll have to start calling your wife “Mother.” It will be the law. Also vaginas will be abolished, somehow. So that will be seriously weird. You have my permission, writers! Write badly! Until people stop reading completely. And enjoy the not-writing while it lasts. You watch the empty page openly mock you with its emptiness. It’s like watching the new “Twin Peaks!”
Jim Behrle lives in Jersey City, NJ and works at a bookstore.