For four years I’ve made Yellowstone the central focus of my life. For four years I’ve wandered every inch of those 2.2 million acres, exploring backwoods and treading ground seldom touched by human feet. For four years I’ve lived and learned among the bison and bears and wolves.
For four years I’ve…stagnated.
And if that ain’t a topic for a post, I don’t know what is.
Look, if Ted from Accounting stagnates and lets inertia take control, just what does it really matter? No offense to Ted, but spreadsheets and balance sheets are the very definition of stagnation.* For someone, on the other hand, who has thrown himself into a life of creation and creativity?
*To a non-accountant, anyway. Sorry, Dad.
Yeah, stagnation and inertia don’t work out too well.
The trouble, as any high school physics kid can tell you, is that inertia continues unchanging and unchanged until some other force acts to change the math. Well, in writing — and in other creative fields, I imagine — inertia is just as powerful as it is in physics. When you are rolling along, pounding out the words? Yeah, then there is a powerful inertia to the creative process. Then there is a inevitably to the flow of words that gives them all the power in the universe. Yep, even in the writing world p=mv. Oh, wait, you don’t know that one? Err, you should probably go and find that high school kid again.
Unfortunately, the opposite holds true as well. When the words stop…
When the flow of ideas and thoughts and creation are held in check…
When the v in that equation equals zero…
At that point, all the mass of those ideas and thoughts and words settle down more heavily than a nerd at a nonstop showing of all six of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien films.*
*Not that I’ve ever done that. That would be wrong. And shameful. And I would totally never do it. Ahem.
Look, I’ve given a lot of writing advice in the five or so years I’ve done this blog. Much of that advice has been complete shit, but some has been pretty damned good. Kinda like my writing, actually.
Err…never mind, let’s stay on the point, shall we?
As a writer, you can’t give up that inertia of creativity. You just can’t do it. If you do, re-starting any form of movement is far, far harder than the slow inertia with which you started the process. Those creative ideas and thoughts, they don’t like change. They want either to be flowing freely and fast, or to settle and conglomerate until the world itself erodes and disintegrates in the entropic cascade that is the fate of all unwritten stories.
A couple of weeks ago, I finally had a long talk with myself. It was a talk about inertia and momentum and entropy. It was also, as I mentioned to a couple of family members, a talk with myself about existing versus living.
We writers — you and me, and more others than either of us can count — have a way of living through our words that non-writers can never truly understand. Oh, they can experience it.n Shit, we damn well hope they experience it, because that is what pays the freaking bills! But their experience is vicarious; they don’t live the stories and words, they experience them.
When a writer stops living and falls to merely existing…well…
You either go back to that gray-and-tan fucking cubicle you once escaped, or…
Or you change the math. You change the value of v.
I don’t care, by the way, how you change the math…just do something. Try a different brand of coffee. Go sit on a mountain in Nepal. Smoke a joint or ten. Buy three hours with triplets in a brothel. Abandon paradise.
It’s time for a change. The unwritten words are a fucking elephant on my chest. If I don’t change, those miserable little bastards will kill me.
So it’s time. It’s time for me to give those old words of parting: Ave atque vale Yellowstone.
It is time, also, to remember that it is the words and stories that define who I am, not the surroundings.
Heading off into the unknown, by the way, doesn’t get any more comfortable or easy, no matter how many times you have done it before. It is stepping off a cliff into a black void of worry and fear…
But it’s new worry and fear, and that is the change to v that I truly need to keep what little is left of my sanity and recover and re-empower who I am vice where I am.
Oh, and with that black void of uncertainty in front of me? The old Egyptian blessing* comes to mind: “God be between you and the dark places you must walk.”
*Thank you Stracynski, and B5, for that one!
[Musical Note: I fought with a few songs for this one. In the end, I went old school.]