I’m sitting down to write again, knowing that within seconds my thoughts will be pulled sideways, garotted, body slammed, bulldozed, by the ceaseless attacks on the orderly transition of power expected of a republic admired for its generous and scrupulous adherence to the rule of law in that ritual at the very least. I hear angry mobs bamboozled into violence by the narcissist-in-chief, his political hacks and lackies, and greedy parasites.
Again. And again.
I don’t want to write about the mess; I’m exhausted by the mess. I want to take flight, wax whimsical, make leaps of hope in humanity and the brotherhood of all life forms. But no. Can’t get past the droning squeal of a nation in agony.
Joyce Carol Oates assures me that the great enemy of writing is not writer’s block or lack of confidence but interruption. Interruption is a fact of life even in pleasant times; I live with humans and dogs. Discipline is called for here and disciplined I shall be. It isn’t easy to be whimsical while disciplined, but it has been my experience that establishing a routine has been necessary from the start. All the most prolific writers describe taming fecund imagination by imposing rigidly maintained writing schedules.
The dog wants to go out? The shower won’t drain? Big Whoop. Get back to work.
Shakespeare wrote King Lear in the midst of a plague. Isaac Asimov was writing by the age of eleven. He came of age during the Depression and World War II and managed to eke out more than 500 published works and something like 9000 letters. Steven King has probably finished his 62nd novel in the time it has taken me to start this post, so I had better get going.
And yet … there’s this noise in my head.
I’m reminded of Kurt Vonnegut’s short story collection, Welcome to the Monkey House, which is a treasure trove of speculative invention, many stories shocking when published in 1968, a few terrifyingly prescient as we have 2020 hindsight. The story that has stuck with me is “Harrison Bergeron”, one of several satirical takes on what Vonnegut felt was society’s regrettable impulse toward mindless egalitarianism. In the imagined year 2081, Constitutional amendments level the playing field by decreeing that no citizen shall be smarter, more physically advantaged, or more attractive than any other. The Handicapper General oversees policies that force beautiful people to wear grotesque masks and ballet dancers to perform while constrained by weights. The central character, Harrison Bergeron, is intelligent, handsome, and athletic, imprisoned, shackled, and fitted out with a device implanted in his brain. The device interrupts sequential thinking by periodically broadcasting a noise, “…like a ball peen hammer hitting a milk bottle.”
The days of our lives … like a ball peen hammer hitting a milk bottle.
The which propels me to a quick survey of similes which land with comparable heft, turning quickly to the cherished compilation of the worst similes used on high school exams, a list I shared with students for years before realizing that they were perfectly capable of producing their own. Why the following abominations should kick off the whimsy machine who knows, but here they are. Warning! Many began with promise then veer into regions best left unexplored.
She had a deep, throaty genuine laugh (pretty good so far) like the sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
The lamp just sat there, like an inanimate object.
The hailstones leapt from the pavement (again, promising) just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.
She was as easy as a really easy crossword. (This one does ask something of the reader)
Her pants fit her like a glove, well, maybe more like a mitten, really.
This is what happens when the brain short circuits. The ball peen hammer continues to hit milk bottles with full force, but I’ve knocked off another article and found some relief in the describing of the dilemma. I’ll close by mixing metaphor and simile in contending that this exercise has cleansed the writing palate like a spoonful of sorbet between courses.