Insomniac Notes, 1

What comes first? Sleeplessness or the process? Do I think to the point I’m deprived of sleep? Or am I deprived because I can’t shut off the endless circus of bullshit that is parading trumpeting monkeys 2 by 2 between my ears?

Nobody believes in insomnia until one of two things happen: they need something from the sleepless or they become one themselves. Even then, it’s a fleeting glimpse into the world of the chronically awake. You can’t quite understand the fear of not sleeping until it’s real. 52 hours real (my personal record, I know others may have put this to shame).

My personal theory is that my creativity is a coping mechanism for too many hours awake. It takes the place of dreams I’m not having and it adds color to the world when being tired drains it.

The lucky part is that it’s cyclic. So really, it’s like weathering out a shitty date–it can’t possibly go on forever. Once you pay the bill, the choice is yours.

The shitty part is that it’s cyclic. It’s going to happen again.

But, just like Camus said, Sisyphus doesn’t have to be miserable pushing his boulder. It’s a chore, not being able to sleep without medication…getting used to the medication…taking stock in chamomile tea…but it can be a game. You can use it to your advantage.

For example: my son thinks he can’t get away with anything because dad is always awake–so he confesses household crimes I’d never have discovered.

My wife thinks I always need sleep, so when I cycle out of Insomnia I still can use it as an excuse for naps.

It’s only evil if it’s not funny.

Or I get caught–but then it’s a motive.

 

Method Acting

I don’t like to speak directly when I write. I don’t really like speaking directly when I speak. For me, communication is something I’ve perfected through years and profession into a chain of impromptu artworks that I basically sell on commission–tailored to the buyer and their requests.

This leaves me in a state of anonymity where I’m allowed my space to create. It’s been wonderful.

I’ve found this ability waning as I age and I’m at a loss for explanation. My characters fade into the scenery and I’m naked on the stage–acting like the jackass I’ve always seen myself as.

“Are you alright?” or “Is there anything going on at home?” usually kick off the conversations about the appropriate methods of discussion allowed in the workplace. Or appropriate jokes.

****

“You realize you have a family right?” wife asks me.

“I forget that.”

She rolls her eyes.

“You’re a saboteur John. You’re only happy if you’re breaking or bending what people want left alone. It’s just you.”

“That doesn’t help. It doesn’t explain–“

“Because people get used to it! I did.” she told me, standing up, “Now you just have to think of a new character to be to get you by.”

“Why can’t I just be me?”

“Because you’re a writer,” wife tells me, “none of you even know who you are.”

Michaelangelo and the Crayon.

Did Michaelangelo ever get marble block? Block, not the plural form.

I stare at the pictures of the Pieta and wonder what rough drafts look like for something that big and that precise. The time is one thing, but to be so sure and so persistent that you worked a stone into an image so iconic your name rippled through the pond generations later.

Isn’t that the dream? To look at nothing and see the artwork? To know where you’re ending even though the path is formless and the destination is only something you can see?

My wife catches me watching our son in his room. She creeps up quietly, returning my smile, and wraps her arm around my waist as she looks in.

He’s painting dinosaurs with her nail polish on the wall. Starting at one corner he’s filled half of the wall under the window, empty glass bottles discarded underneath him, as he works diligently.

She turns to me, appalled.

“How long have you been watching?”

“Half an hour.”

“Why?!”

“I’m respecting the process”

The Wordsmith Pantheon

As a writer I find myself struggling between my three states of being: scholar, romantic, and subversive. When I wake up in the morning, it’s a three way tie between what my voice is that day as I draft reports for work or tinker with my projects. Do I want to be seen as wisdom incarnate, deftly nudging thoughts and ideas into the realm of enlightenment? Do I want to be the beauty connoisseur, in love with the idea of infatuation as I encourage everyone to chase their own passions? Or am I just the scaly little bastard pissing in everyone’s coffee.

Generally, it’s the latter. Thankfully, not literally.

In my Wordsmith Pantheon, I have three figures manipulating how I engage the world. At the foot of the throne is the Professor and Aphrodite. In the big seat is a three horned little prick giggling over the Professor’s pleads for prudence and Aphrodite’s begging compassion.

My god of wordsmithing is an evil little shit. He’s the muse behind various vulgar renditions of Christmas carols. He’s the reason my wife pinches me at parties when someone asks me what they should do with their lives. He’s the evil shit that doesn’t have the attention span to deal with something that doesn’t make him laugh.

My god of wordsmithing is a seven year-old bastard.

The more I talk to other artists and other writers, the more I realize we’re all fighting the same fight. Where the goblin holds the throne in my world, I know others who can’t help but write science fiction that is half NASA lecture and others still who have to fall in love with everything they make. All the while I settle with drawing a picture or penning a story that makes me feel angry in a certain direction.

I sat drinking beer with my best friend, explaining why I haven’t been able to finish the edits on my novel.

“Everytime I try to work on themes and characterization, I think of a funnier scene I need to add in.”

“Drinking makes you less funny.”

“Maybe,” I shrugged, “but there has to be a balance when I’m sober. Some way of checking myself, forcing myself to balance the other two gods.”

“No,” he leans over the poker table, ” you’re not funny when you drink, so give me back my damned chips.”

You can’t choose your gods.

 

Einstein’s Theory of Creativity

Sanity is a luxury of the rested and content. The rest of us are content in our loss of sanity. It’s what gives us that je ne sais quoi that makes us, or our hatchlings, something to look at or ponder.

Conformity was target practice after I left home and began to build my voice, my look, my method, my scripts. The rejections came as thick as the ideas and the references at the end of the letters always pointed me to authors I should look at to refine myself. 

I’d scoff. What does cummings know about me? What could Huxley understand about this brave new world I’ve thrown myself into. Why read someone else to see how to be myself?

 Conformist, spat the angry youth. 

I read; years after I’d left academia, tragically entering the world in the middle age of my twenties to resign to a cookie cutter job. I read the suggestions on the bottom of the rejection slips.

Orwell was a cop. Hemingway drove an ambulance. Artists live. Ideas are neat, art is experience and message and life. Ideas are a bubble. Live, read, learn, give it another go.

I was the same stupid kid. We all are and will be, but sanity has to be at the end. If we just try to do this same thing over and over and over again.

The Argument (P.S. Camus)

Our voices dulled like passing trains and we stared at each other. 

At some point, screaming as loud and fast as possible depleted the dictionary. As the Oxford English flamed out, we burned the thesaurus too.  We sealed a fleeting truce by leaving the room disgusted with each other.

It was every argument I’ve ever had.

We sat across from tables each time, each partner, and beat each other like the words meant themselves. Like there wasn’t another reason, a better reason, we spat poison that had no other possible purpose than to seep and rot.

I was beating my soul necrotic and raging about why I was dying. It was a game I played with whoever was available for the sake of pretending that it would find a solution. 

A solution for the frustration of choosing the wrong career. A solution for the anger of being unfulfilled. A solution for the sadness of losing a friend. A solution, a beautifully poetic resolution, to my existence by arguing over books, meals, and work like it was life/death/humanity at stake and not some Sisyphean madness.

I quit pacing and went back to my office, pulled out a piece of paper, and started drawing.

He came back into the room and pointed at the picture I was sketching.

“What is that?”

“Sisyphus.” I kept drawing.

“Who?”

“A king who messed with a god and ended up pushing a boulder uphill for the rest of eternity. Felt appropriate.”

A pause and then a question.

“Are you calling me a god?”

I tossed the pencil on the desk.

“I’m calling us idiots.”

Babes

“They’re a piece of shit!” the neighbor yells.

I point over my shoulder to my son playing in the yard, he gives half a glance and half shrugs a half-assed apology. My son is running in circles while my wife watches from the porch. My wife glares at the vulgar amateur politician standing in our yard.

She tells me to stop talking to him and he will quit coming around. The stray cat theory–just stop feeding it. She tells me there hasn’t been a single time he’s come to the yard where he hasn’t taught our boy a new way to curse at or hate people. I tried telling her that our son was just getting a crash course in current events and real American politics.

She liked my sarcasm more when we were dating.

I don’t have the heart to send the guy home. Instead, I’ve tried to make our meeting point closer and closer to the corner of the lawn. As soon as I step outside, he comes over with his hands in his pockets, and finds some excuse to rant about the youth, the nation, these end times.

It’s serious business to him. This world is really ending. It’s comedy to me. If we were that close to the apocalypse shouldn’t you be taking this knowledge somewhere other than a neighbors lawn.

Ranting inaction.

“I don’t know how this type of person even makes it in an election?!” he goes on, as I stand tolerantly silent, “Why won’t anyone listen to the candidates I know are better?”

“Cuz they piece shit!” my son yells at him, then continues running in a circle.

The neighbor stares at me.

“The kid has a point.” I smile.

God, I love politics.