Tag Archives: life

Unlock

Where is my mind and is this what writer’s block is like?

Unlock (Photo by Twan van Elk)

I posted this piece on my newsletter yesterday, even though I wasn’t sure if should put it there, or on my blog. But then I got an idea (finally) of what I wanted to do with these two – blog and newsletter – so then I moved it here anyway. Stay tuned for more updates/changes…

Okay, so this is what I wrote:

My mind is locked today. Unreachable, access unattainable, wholly out of order. Work was a struggle, my poetry was just… bleh. Work at the very least is something I can do, I know how to do. And poetry is usually something that helps me, resets me, takes my mind off of things and opens it up.

Not today though. Nothing worked, thoughts didn’t come. And I needed thoughts. Ideas to kick around, to balance on my toes, to bump off my admittedly rather large (and getting increasingly larger, until there’s nothing but) forehead, to heel skillfully into the net, until their deflated leftovers were the only proof that some work had actually been done.

So, I just took that as my starting point for this post. Genius, ain’t it? I thought so. Too bad I can’t take credit for this course of action, because so many writers before me (hah, see what I did there?) have already said that that is the way to go if one is at where I am at today. Yes. Like somebody, somewhere, once, sort of said (okay, it was Charles Bukowski and this is apparently an actual quote): “Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”

And there we are. Or, here I am (trying to not be too presumptuous). I thought I’d have a go at saying what I think about the infamous ‘writer’s block’.

I don’t believe in that whole ‘just work through it’ attitude. I mean, I had one of those days today in which nothing went the way I wanted it to go. That goes for what I wanted to do for my day job (I am working on a proposal) as well as for my writing. My brain could just not reach the things I needed, even though I got up early, was ready, had my coffee, and there weren’t any distractions in the sense that there was other stuff I needed to deal with.

Ideal circumstances, I thought. Yet I had a really hard time producing anything that could form some sound foundation on which I could go further in days to come. Don’t get me wrong, I managed to put some words in, some beginnings are there, but not nearly as many as I had hoped.

So it is not so much writer’s block, but more like a thinking block. It affects my work as well as my writing. I want to go somewhere but, yes, there is a blockage there that prevents me from seeing the road ahead, let alone seeing my end goal. I know, there are some techniques that I can use in preparation for the actual work, but that is the point: I didn’t start yet with what what I needed to do, not really. And I don’t want to just put in words, that to me is not writing. It has to be purposeful, intentional and going somewhere.

In the end, I mean, right now, I feel I did accomplish something today after all. I found that little hook I needed to draw in some writing on. And that was what this was about for me anyway. Great. Tomorrow has to go swimmingly after a day like this. Right?

Some stuff I read today when I couldn’t get my brain jump-started.

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Words, Meet Maker

If you here require a practical rule of me, I will present you with this: ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.

—Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

Sometimes I think I have these great insights (usually a side-effect of showering), that—as soon as I start to write the words down, and my mind is mulling them over, bending and stretching them to fit into these long doughy sentences that fit just perfectly onto the page—begin to deteriorate before my very eyes, until at the end there’s nothing left to do than to delete those god-awful words with an aching heart.

Life is never as simple as I can see in a flash of bright light. The light takes out most of the greys and the finer details that are hiding in the dark at the sides. But those matter, of course. And as I zoom out and gradually dim the light, those gradients and tidbits come into focus and start moving around, squirming like a colony of crazy ants—oftentimes confusing the heck out of me.

For every sentence that pops into my head and that I try and commit to this blank space waiting for me, I come up with tons of reasons to not write them. They are not witty, not smart, not beautiful, not dirty, not wise, not angry, not emotional enough. They are too long, too short, of the exact right length (are they though)? They are wrong, or the presumptions—or worse, assumptions—that precede them, make them tricky or possibly untrue and therefore unfit for use.

Or maybe my language skills fall short. Maybe my grasp of the English language is insufficient. It is, is after all, not my native language and a language I only really came into contact with at the start of my high school days when it was part of the curriculum. Whereas I picked up German naturally when I was still little—maybe about five or six years old?—because my dad liked to watch a lot of German tv, because, frankly, Dutch tv wasn’t all that great (it still isn’t).

—Wait.. where the hell am I going with this post? What am I doing here?

Ugh… See what I mean? I better delete this.

Poems twittereded

Posted some short poems straight to Twitter:

The mourning of the growing of a flower

“There’s nothing to mourn about death any more than there is to mourn about the growing of a flower. What is terrible is not death but the lives people live or don’t live up until their death. They don’t honor their own lives, they piss on their lives. They shit them away. Dumb fuckers. They concentrate too much on fucking, movies, money, family, fucking. Their minds are full of cotton. They swallow God without thinking, they swallow country without thinking. Soon they forget how to think, they let others think for them. Their brains are stuffed with cotton. They look ugly, they talk ugly, they walk ugly. Play them the great music of the centuries and they can’t hear it. Most people’s deaths are a sham. There’s nothing left to die.”

― Charles Bukowski

Just going through the motions from birth to death is not living. Sometimes you need to kick and scream to wake yourself up, to feel it. And I can feel myself getting itchy again. (I almost typed a ‘like’-sentence there, but I hate ‘like’ with a vengeance, so, no.)

I want to ride the next big wave. Problem is, I don’t see it yet. There are ripples, but nothing substantial is underneath just yet. Sometimes I see something that excites me, great art, an awesome band, a blog with thought-provoking content, maybe some photography that really speaks to me, or just a great, creative idea. But the real taste is not there yet.

Unrest leading to (a) movement, leading to action. It doesn’t have to disrupt — an unsatisfying word these days anyway, since business and marketing had their way with it — as long as I am being swept up and carried off on the manifestation of some real, honest, great, gritty, dirty energy.

Oh well, maybe tomorrow.

Bet my brains

Music choices courtesy of my weird, cottony brain:

Back To It

“I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.”

― Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely

Yup.

Bought some books in Maastricht last week, to keep me going for a while. (Seriously, if you ever come to the Netherlands, visit bookstore Dominicanen. It is situated in this amazing old church building. In the meantime, you can check out the 3D-tour.)

Book haul: Shaun Bythell – Diary of a Bookseller, Pablo Neruda – Selected poems, Sylvia Plath – Poems (chosen by Carol Ann Duffy)

Randomness

That which cannot remain silent

Hold the line:

You can find more stuff I listened to on my Music Profile at Last.fm.

Nothing to it | just bleed

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.

― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Evanescence – Use My Voice

I love writing. I can do it anywhere, anytime. Scribble. Or type. Think about it. Or pour my heart out. Any way I like it. There are no rules. Maybe you think there are, but believe me, there are not. How awesome is that? I can just think of something, or make stuff up, write it down.

I have a voice. Like you. You may not know it. You may not think it. But you do. Find it. Use it. Like I do.

Do I want to share it? Keep it to myself? It is up to me. I am in charge. And I love it. There are so many options. I can decide. I have control. Or maybe I just let go. Who knows? I just start, just do. Discover how great I can be. Am. Or how bad I suck. It doesn’t matter either way.

I don’t need to be a reader. I know that now. I thought I had to, but no more. I just have to want to write. And I do. And I do.

I can look different. I can look the same. I can not be seen. I can be lifelike. Fake. Whole. Or broken. I can get mean. I can be gentle. I can be me. Or somebody else. Anyone else. I get to pick.

I don’t have to wait. I can do it now. Here.

I can post. Share. Or not. Now, or later. I can be safe, or seek out danger. For real, or just on the page. And what is real? When I write, it becomes real. As real as can be. As real as I want. As you want it to be. For you. I just wrote it. You read it. It is my gift to you. To me. Take it, leave it. I want it, I have it. You can have it. If you want it.

I can tell a story. My story. Somebody’s. Anybody’s. I can be truthful. Or lie. And it is all right. It is all good. Or bad. It really does not matter. But I do. I just do. I just enjoy. I hope you do too.

I wish you well.

Randomness

Soundtrack

[Previously published on Twan’s Newsletter]

Rethinking my life

And in other news…

Fugazi live in Hamburg in 1999
If you have an hour and about 40 minutes to spare and like American post-hardcore, maybe check out this concert. I saw them live a few years before, in Doornroosje (Sleeping Beauty) in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. What I remember: great energy, lots of old-school punks from Germany driving crappy vans full of graffiti coming to Nijmegen to see them.

Queens of the Stone Age live | Rockpalast | 2013
I think Rockpalast has the best concert registrations ever. From the seventies right up the present day.

Why you should definitely read the story collection by Izumi Suzuki, the Japanese SF legend
‘Kay, added to my list.

The IT crowd – Truest moment about tech support
Love me some IT Crowd.

Mind your own business

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson were reflecting on their company Basecamp. As always they tried to bring it back to its core, treating Basecamp, the company, as a product. They came up with 6 things that needed to change in their eyes:

  1. No more heated discussions about sociological or political issues on the company account, that account should solely be about the work they’re doing at Basecamp;
  2. No more meddling with personal lives by pushing certain benefits, like fitness or education. What employees do —or not do— on their own time is their own business, not the company’s.
  3. Put the decision making back in the hands of the people who were hired for that. So no more committees, working groups, bureaucracy. Back to individual responsibility.
  4. No more indecisiveness or lingering. Explain it once, and then move on.
  5. No more 360 reviews, or ‘peer feedback’ for employee performance reviews. Yeah, ’nuff said.
  6. Be super aware of what it is you do, as a company. Usually that isn’t getting into social issues or getting behind certain movements. Just be responsible for what you are there for as a company.

I don’t know about you, but this so resonates with me, I just love it. Bring it back to the basics, to what is about: the work. And do not be nostalgic about perceived or assumed togetherness or camaraderie at work, just because you are being together in the same building, behind a desk from nine to five or in lots of back-to-back meetings.

That said, I am really curious where my own work and/or work in the Netherlands in general will go. Right now it is all still about digital and working remotely and all is great, as far as I am concerned.

But I fear that as soon as people start thinking there is any room (e.g. because of vaccination or infection numbers going down in some other way), there is a big chance all the steps taken could be thrown out of the window again, and we’d be back at the old ways of doing things in no time. That would be such a shame.

Let’s see what happens.

About: Changes at Basecamp

Finding the right words

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

―Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

I am always a bit at a loss for… words, I would say, when I read a sad or depressed blog post. In real life, I would maybe sit with the guy, listen to what he has to tell me, offer some new way of looking at things, if I think that is what he is looking for.

But how to express this towards a blog post? How I can I sit silently with a blog post? “Hey dude, I know you’re sad but look at this… LIKE!” – That doesn’t seem as the right reaction when somebody just poured his guts out and now is standing there looking at the gory results before him on the pavement.

And I am okay with writing for myself. But, knowing I probably am not finding the right words to write, in reaction to what I know I don’t see the full width of, to me that borders on knowingly insulting someone.

Yes, I am overthinking. Probably. But experience has taught me that I oftentimes come across as unempathetic or worse, while I genuinely try to be a super-nice person.

In other words, I stink at this game.

Not to worry though, I intend to make many more mistakes in the time to come. My wife and kids know me and my ways, colleagues I guess have learned to deal with me. Other than that, I have no friends to lose, so onward I go!