A Shot of 5-Hour Energy: A Series of Joins

A Shot of 5-Hour Energy: A Series of Joins
Photo by Ryan Snaadt / Unsplash

You ever wonder whether carpenters or masons have creative blocks the way writers do?

This was a silly thought that came to my mind recently. I have been struggling to write the same four or five story projects since perhaps May: at least one novella, two short stories, and one novel are there, fully imagined in my brain, but when I stop to make words work, they just can't move.

I think a lot of people imagine these kinds of blocks as a lack of ideas, but for me, very often it's more literally a lack of ideate fluidity, like the synapses are tied in knots and the thoughts can't move down their stems. I've still been working--it's just that some projects are easier than others, and all of them are frustratingly slow.

I don't think I have a lot to say about that. It's been difficult since the beginnings of the Lockdown That Must Not Be Named--I've been prone recently to reminisce all the ways that my mental health has become more volatile as a result of working from home, and how some of those mental health outcomes have made it difficult to create or keep work.

So why have I been thinking about carpenters?

I may have this totally wrong, but I can't imagine a carpenter being blocked this way. Carpentry, as I understand it from the little I've seen and read, is made up of so many specific and precise elements that come together as a whole that, barring a singular miscalculation or a bad cut, would be difficult to be completely lost on, let alone be uneditable. In that way, a table, for instance, is just a series of joins--the prepared attempt to put together a group of pieces until they make a complete object, and then the work to make each piece their best before that togetherness happens. When they make their joins and sand their faces, it's because they know when they put each piece together it will make exactly what it's supposed to make.

So why can't it be that easy for writing?

Well, in a lot of ways, it is. It's just all the measuring and cutting is in the head, and then you have to do it abstractly onto paper--you have to see the perfect image come out imperfectly and then cut, sand, varnish, but a second time, the true time, on the page. It doesn't help that there are no 'singular' pieces in writing--a word isn't just one thing or another, sometimes it is not a leg but the join between two spaces, sometimes it is pulling double- or triple-duty in that one line or one paragraph, and even those pieces can be more than their initial weight in letters. Doing all that imagining is both very easy and very daunting.

But that's the job.

I am writing this mostly as a message to myself: to find the way in which writing becomes this small, this atomised, so that even when it is difficult I can find the small part of it that I can do each day and do that. In a lot of ways, mustering the will to write a newsletter is also that work. But working through the block requires the kind of focus that is also at play when musicians are merely jamming or illustrators get from sketching--making a small thing each day for the sake of making it. Cutting one piece of wood as particularly as possible, and being patient with myself.

Today's Tunes

Three, very quickly:

  1. I was recently reminded by my friend Noelle that Son Lux is rad as hell.

This is a fact I was already aware of; if you've listened all the way through to the credits of Everything Everywhere All At Once, you know this as well. I just hadn't invested in that knowledge the way I may have for any other music currently in my playlists, so that was a thing I needed to rectify immediately. This song in particular has been coming up often in my attempts to keep busy with my writing, so it's only fair that I share it here.

2. EVO was the same week as Gen Con, so I missed all of it, but it is a truth universally acknowledged that if Zaid Tabani is doing music for it, that music is gonna be kickass.

The fighting game community has a magically powerful inner ring of rappers who are very good at giving gravitas to the stories behind the fight-sticks, and whenever there is a new rap to indulge in, I'm excited to hear it, and even more so when Tabani or Mega Ran are involved. I still have to watch some of these matches, but this was enough hype for the week for me.

3. If you're looking for some anticapitalist inspiration for your next week, Seabath has you covered.

I have been listening to this song religiously since the single came out, and even more so since its inimitable lead singer Amy Li Baksh shared a demo with me ages ago. It is the song that wakes up that slowly expanding part of me that bristles when bills are hard to pay, and since that part of me has become insatiable in the last few months, I am excited that it's their first single and that everyone gets to experience it. I've been shoving it in my other friends' faces for about a week now, because it is amazing.

The Dregs

Today's newsletter was, very curiously, inspired by a newsletter: Amal El-Mohtar's latest was very serendipitous at a point where I had woken up early to make a thing and spent several hours flummoxed, and it gave me an unspoken reminder to take a breath instead.

First, I was at the Gen Con Writers' Symposium! Yes, I know, I am very bad at actually taking pictures or sharing introspections about cons I'm at while I'm at them, because I'm too busy actually experiencing all the cool stuff that happened! It was, of course, a fantastic experience, and I'm glad to have been back to share space with so many amazing writers and talk about the overlapping crafts of fiction and TTRPGs. My only shame is that I didn't come back with anything to play! But I do have a lot of things on the list now!

Also, I'm gonna be at Big Bad Con in late September as well! I'm honoured to be one of this year's PoC Scholars, and excited to learn more and talk shop with so many amazing designers. I'll also be playtesting some stuff while I'm there: I'll be running the first public playtest of both the Grayshade RPG based on Gregory A. Wilson's Gray Assassin Trilogy, and my Kamen Rider-inspired semi-Forged in the Dark game Hero Revolution! [I am very nervous about both of these things. I imagine this is the norm?]

A reminder that you can help keep this newsletter and the rest of my work afloat by supporting me on Patreon, buying me a coffee on Ko-fi or sending a donation via PayPal, or by buying one of my small game projects over on Itch!

Until next time!