The Myth of Genius


You are in the midst of writing an edgy, gripping blog about writer’s block that is sure to be a critical success—really, David Remnik is on the verge of calling you to pinch hit at any moment now.

But you start teaching a course about writer’s block at a prestigious university and paralysis sets in (1). Not the minor kind of procrastination that you can cover up with any number of real-sounding excuses like, “I got hit by a pile of grading” or “I’m feeling guilty because I binged on Murakami over the weekend.” But, rather, the kind that grinds your life down to a total fucking halt.

The kind where you suddenly know all the QVC hostesses by name because of your Starbuck’s-fueled insomnia.  Where you start sobbing in Staples because you can’t find the perfect shredder.  Where you research the largest possible dose of Prozac you can take without unintentionally committing suicide.

Even though this emo behavior was once acceptable—nay, fashionable even—when you were a grad student living on $500 a month and trying to cough up a boring dissertation that no one would ever read, it’s now deeply problematic because, as a self-proclaimed expert of unblockage, you realize that you have, once again, fallen for your own masturbatory fantasies of failure.

And, like the Biggest Fattest Loser falsely minted with a anorexic’s zeal, you never imagined that that 400 lb. block of performance anxiety could re-insert itself back into that same section of your duodenum.  But it just did.

And short of calling on a few deities you don’t believe in or, god forbid, reading a few writer’s magazines “for inspiration,” what do you do?  I mean, it’s one thing to offer condescending advice to the community of the blocked, but what do you actually do if you, the formerly unblocked, find yourself back in the community of the blocked and, it would appear, running for class president?

The one and only possible answer:  you write. (2)

Yes, that’s right:  you write.  You don’t think about writing.  You write.  And you never allow yourself to think about that famous prick who taught your intro to poetry class and felt your poems were merely “solid.”  Instead, you write.  And you especially never  think about your mother’s response to your first story which began “I’m not sure I would have . . .”

No, you don’t think about any of that.  You don’t think about anything at all.  Instead:  you just write.  That is, you somehow force, coax, persuade, cajole, beguile, or otherwise trick yourself into writing no matter how terrible, inadequate, depressed, demoralized, debilitated, or hung over you feel.  And, if need be, you do this by opening up a fresh word processing screen and sullying its clean e-page—replete with Nobel-winning potential if only someone else were writing—with the powerful invective, “I hate…” And then you see what fills itself in as you step aside.

In other words, you let the writing write itself.  Then the next day, you do the same thing.  You become merciless toward that Inner Editor, with his comma fetish, who has somehow managed to hijack the ship.  Day after day, you continue to take a big writing shit in his anal-retentive sandbox until the stink wears him down and he quits.

Then, magically, your Inner Writer—that patchouli-smelling hippie who likes to screw well-acned mathematicians rather than future CEOs and who likes to embarrass you by not wearing a bra—gets sprung from jail.  And then she tells you all about the fabulously messed-up shit that was going on in your psyche that she plans on using as the basis for her next book.

Just fuck the muse!

Your Inner Hippie will help you discover something liberating:  you do not need to be a genius to write.  You just need to be screwed up enough to have lots of juicy stuff rolling around your psyche.   And, as far as I can tell, that’s everyone’s birthright.  So, in fact, you can be a plain old dumb fuck and and your hippie will still be able to write.

This liberating fact also means that you don’t need to wait for the muse—that fickle little brown noser who only seems to drop in on real writers like William Blake or Emily Dickinson.   As your Inner Hippie will tell you, you can just fuck the muse!  You don’t need any ‘help’ or ‘inspiration’ from that stupid-ass little smurfette!  You’re plenty screwed up, so she has reams of material to work with already.  You just need to take a chill pill and let her sit down and write.  Really, she’ll tell you,  “It isn’t about you anymore. You are just along for the ride.” (4) And, if you start to get blocked again, she’ll remind you that you need to stop embracing that Inner Sade because, as much as she gets excited by that “Guilty Slut” paddle you bought last summer, she prefers you would use it on someone else’s ass besides your own.
———————–
(1) Really, it’s the kind of place where even the kids who rode the short bus got Mellon Fellowships.

(2) Yes, as it turns out, those well-wishing philistines from my debut post—the ones who, with all the sensitivity of a fart ripped out loud during chapel, can’t possibly understand why you don’t know that the obvious solution to writer’s block is to “just write”—are, unfortunately, right.

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