WRITING is such a lonely act. That is my thought as I settle myself down in a random chair in a random place in a familiar ritual that has become a habit more than anything else. Sometimes, it is a welcome exercise, other times it is a tedious painful chore that must be done.
There is a Jedi-like process that must now commence as I force the din of the noise around me to recede by sheer will. There is the road whose roar and squeaks must be muffled; the tiny high-pitched whistle of the television on basketball seeking peripheral attention that must be overcome; and the cacophony of voices in one’s head each clamoring for consideration to find exclusive me-time in the hallowed chamber of the mind – all of them must be defeated, brought to a tolerable silence, so that the singular James Earl Jones voice from within is called out.
I don’t know how others do it. But that is more or less the process for me. It is not always a guaranteed success – this process of calling out the clarity of one’s thought modulated through the medium of the brand voice of CNN. Sometimes the voice of Inday Badiday takes over, raspy, and untamed. And the writing reflects this mishap. The sentences tumble upon each other like they were a bag of marbles, opened, and its contents flung messily down a staircase.
There are occasions when the exercise channels the voice of Woody Allen, and the fidgety and whiney nervous antics of the comedian manifest themselves in the staccato-like flow of ideas and they form themselves as curt words and phrases tethering on the edge of some kind of emotional precipice. Yes, writing can bring one to the brink of a nervous breakdown. Good thing, one can also summon one’s Jedi-powers once more to put Allen aside and replace him with a different mental anchor, say Nick Cave or Leonard Cohen. Or to be less gendered about it, Tori Amos or Kate Bush!
Any writer who regards this exercise with a degree of seriousness recognizes that music is a good tool to harness the mindset necessary for stringing a set of ideas into a coherent assembly of words and sentences. A decent record collection is therefore a necessary aid for those who are in the profession. For writing, like music, can be bombastic and apocalyptic like the unmistakable baritone of Nick Cave or Cohen. The exercise can also result to lithe and airy pieces at the onset and yet manage to weigh like a ton in certain moments of the oeuvre just like the works of Amos and Bush.
If your record collection is severely limited to the Best of the 80s compilation, or say just genteel sounds of the Victorian era, then it becomes a serious handicap for the colors and moods available for your writing palette will also reflect this limit. Better to have a smattering of death metal or Icelandic post-rock ready to play to call out the complex moods and intellectual acrobatics that only Kirk Hammett’s pentatonic guitar solo or Bjork’s post-singing theatrics can inspire to come out.
There is so much drama, mental effort, and time, precious and lovely time, involved in this lonely act of writing that is true. Especially in occasions when your writing sounds like the slow drawl of a hated former president or the painful stuttering of the current one with his smoker’s cough betraying his lies and deceit. Even with the other worldly drama of Sigur Ros’ music channeling the majestic landscape of Iceland and yet failing to call out the voice of James Earl Jones but conjures the glacial drone of Ben David instead, writing can sometimes be such a disaster.
When all else fails, there is always that trusty cold bottle of your favorite alcoholic beverage that will be your trusty remedy to pull you through your writer’s block. One cold brewsky, then it will feel like Depeche Mode during the heyday of their dark wave days in the period of the Black Celebration era. By your second one, writing can flow seamlessly like the cool hipster metronomic drone of The Strokes. If you are lightweight like me, the third bottle will be the sweet spot. At this moment, writing can feel like Coltrane or The Beatles on vinyl – amid the hiss and pops of the analog medium, there are clarity and a palpable emotion to every chord/word that is conjured.
Writing is such a lonely act. One has to amuse oneself in the process of getting words on print and the joy of the struggle almost always makes up for it. If only the effort was worth enough to pay for the three beer bottles now sitting forlornly empty on the table.