In close to four years with CityBeat, I've never suffered from writer's block. There's something about working on deadline that keeps me in check and ensures that I produce like clockwork.
Recently, though, I found myself at a creative dead-end. Yes, a couple of news stories had caught my eye, and, yes, I'd had my share of debaucherous nights. But I just wasn't sure how to translate that to a 900-word narrative.
One website I turned to for help suggested this blockage comes from a Censor—capital C and all— that lives inside your brain. “Who knows what causes the ugly Censor to be there—a bad experience in third grade? Something your mother said once during potty-training?” the site said.
In keeping with the Freudian theme and longing for some sage advice, I turned to that beacon of knowledge known as my mom. “Thank God!” she said with a sigh of relief. I'd woken her from a cat nap, and, apparently, she'd been dreaming that I'd been bludgeoned to death inside my car. “I was going to call the authorities, but, of course, I would have been their prime suspect,” she said. Even so, she noted, they'd never be able to pin it on her because investigators wouldn't find any fingerprints—not because she didn't do it, but because decades of religiously disinfecting her hands with alcohol and, later, hand sanitizer, have effectively erased her prints. Potential drug lords take note.
“Hold on—you're not putting this in your column, are you? she asked.
“I just might,” I answered back, sharing my blockage conundrum.
“Well,” she suggested, “if you really want to write something that everyone can relate to, do a piece on how the producers of ModeFamily ruined the show by recasting the role of baby Lily. Everyone hates her.”
Priceless input, no doubt, but having gotten an invitation to a going-away party in a hotel-room that promised both tickle fights and brief nudity, I decided to venture off and frantically chase after my muse.
I picked up a box of Franzia Sunset Blush, as it was BYOBW (Bring your Own Box of Wine)themed, and seconds after walking into the room, I was greeted by the hosts, Adam Traub, who fronts the local band The burning of Rome, and his girlfriend Sammi, who dangled a spigotted plastic wine bag in my face and instructed me to slap it with all my might and then do a shot from it.
“Don't caress it; really let it have it,” she instructed. An enthusiast for drinking games, I complied. It was like the keg-stand equivalent for us non-athletic types.
A couple of rounds in, strangers were now friends, and conversations got lively. “I remember masturbating to the missing kids in Soul Asylum's ‘Runaway Train' video,” one of them offered while another complimented my hairline.
I asked Traub, an accomplished lyricist, how he dealt with creativity blocks, and he quoted a line by David Lynch that—on my 10th go at slap-the-bag—made absolute, almost cosmic sense. I gotta write this shit down, I remember thinking, and with no hotel-room note pad in sight, I improvised and started writing on my hand.
The night well underway, I started combining flavors like a kid at the county fair's shaved-ice station. Chillable Red mixed with Delicious White? Yes, please. Fruity Sangria with beer? Why not? I was Pinocchio at Pleasure Island, and luckily for me, Jiminy had taken the night off.
Before long, my left hand and even my forearm were inked up like an Indian bride, and I knew I had more than enough material for a stellar column. Some edibles and a fieldtrip to the Red Fox Room piano bar later, I was set. Screw you, writer's block! Singing along to show tunes without a care in the world, it was clear who'd won this showdown.
Confident and in a celebratory mood, I capped the night by gorging on some leftover Chinese food and, according to my YouTube-viewing history, enjoyed a solid hour and 35 minutes of drag-queen performance clips before dozing off. Man, that Manila Luzon can really turn it out.
It's now just a couple of hours before my deadline. Under-slept and dealing with the bitch of a hangover that only a combination of MSG and a buffet of $7 hooch can cause, I've awoken in an absolute haze. Oh, that's right, the column—the amazing, adventure-filled column that, because of everything that I had to go through in order to get it, will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Let's do this. Nine-hundred words? Puh-leeze.
That's child's play. I might even do a two-parter.
I turned on my laptop and, wanting to set the proper mood and get the creative juices flowing, set the TV to the soothing Soundscapes music channel. Then, before sitting down to pound out a sure award-winner, I did my morning business, which involved thoroughly washing my hands.
Crust still in my eyes, I wailed a cinematic “Nooooo” and, in a slow-motion flash, watched my would-be masterpiece go literally down the drain. My obsession with hand cleanliness had done me in. I found myself back at that dreaded square one.
So, um, have you heard about the new actor playing the baby in ModeFamily?
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Enrique blogs at elzonkeyshow.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @enriquelimon.