Posted tagged ‘Fort Hood shooting’

Blocking Writer’s Block – Part VIII (at least) – Ignore Insignificance

November 7, 2009

One of the side effects of a tragedy like the shooting at Fort Hood is its overshadowing of so many other concerns.  The event is just so sad that it makes much else seem, at least, temporarily, insignificant.  (I say, temporarily, because, attention spans are short in our media-drenched culture.)

Such overshadowing can be especially problematic for a writer or artist suffering from writer/artist’s block.  One feels idiotic to even mention such an issue, but there it is–one more reason why one’s work feels stupid, not worth the trouble.   This is especially true if you are a writer or artist whose work doesn’t deal with these kinds of violent tragic impulses, this extent of sudden loss.

This reaction sounds terribly narcissistic.   But usually the struggling writer/artist feels the national tragedy deeply.  He/she may want to respond in some helpful, articulate, way, but can only come up with platitudes.  Writing well about politics and despair may simply not be one’s cup of tea.  However, in the midst of such events, writing about anything else may feel idiotic.

Don’t be driven into inaction because you feel insignificant.  Go on.  You are who you are.  You do the work you do.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t stretch yourself.  You absolutely should.  (Especially if you’re someone prone to blocks or avoidance.)   But don’t give up on something because you feel that it seems silly, inconsequential.

Think about (i)  Dutch interior paintings (Vermeer); and (ii) still lives (Cezanne, Braque, Picasso).

Think  about (i) Charlotte’s Web, (just about the most brilliant children’s book every written – about a pig, spider, and barn);  (ii) Ulysses (a day, mainly, in the life of humdrum Leopold Bloom, (iii) To the Lighthouse (which has, to my mind, one of the most heartbreaking descriptions of the changes in England wrought by World War I, told mainly by the wind rushing through an abandoned house, (iv) The Importance of Being Earnest, (v)  A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream; (vi) almost any poem by Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, lots of  Chinese poets, (vii) too many others to name.

Don’t judge yourself so much.  If you are someone that writes about Columbine, or 9/11, or Fort Hood, that’s wonderful–our world needs help understanding these horrible events.    But don’t worry if you do not directly work on these things;  everything you are and know and think about is in the core, or texture, or background of what you do.  So just do it;  it will do.

PS – check out my many other posts re writer’s block, and writing, and writing exercises, by checking those categories.  Also, check out 1 Mississippi by Karin Gustafson at Amazon, or at link from home page.

Context – World Series, Fort Hood, Obama’s Remarks

November 5, 2009

The effect of context.   As some ManicDDaily readers may recall, I was lucky enough to be given a ticket to Game 1 of the World Series last week.  As grateful as I was, the combination of Cliff Lee (the Phillie’s amazing pitcher), a wet, cold night, and the materialism and misogyny of a small set of other Yankees’ fans, made the evening a bit of a bummer.

What amazed me this morning was how much better that Game 1 experience felt in light of the Yankees’ overall Series’ triumph.  It was like the Yankees had once more pulled a difficult game out of the hat, only this time it was a game that they had actually lost, and the “pulling” was all done retrospectively.  Now, Game 1 feels simply like one more step on the Yankees’ journey towards victory—a lesson of, and for, New York–a lesson in resilience.

Since thinking all these grandiose thoughts about the Yankees, the horrible events at Fort Hood, Texas have taken place. Sport seems trivial compared to loss of life.  Nearly everything seems trivial when compared to terrible events of this kind, which, unfortunately, are all too common in today’s world.

Obama spoke about the tragedy in the context of a planned speech at a conference concerning Native Americans.   I had not seen Obama’s remarks earlier in the day,  so looked for them this evening online.  What was (sort of) amazing to me is that on youtube, at least, there was already a fair amount of negative commentary about Obama’s sober words, mainly because, since they were given in the midst of a planned speech, they followed introductory thanks to conference organizers and attendees, including a special acknowledgement (“shout-out”) to  one Congressional medal of honor winner.    The negative internet commentary viewed this introductory “shout-out” to the medal of honor winner (who I presume was at one time a soldier) as disrespectful to the current soldiers who were today’s victims.

I admit that the term “shout-out” was not a good choice.  (I’m guessing that part had been planned, like my Yankees’ bit, before the Fort Hood events transpired, and that Obama simply wanted not to forget to acknowledge the medal of honor winner.) However, Obama’s actual remarks, which immediately followed his introductory thanks, were grave and prayerful.  Which again brings up the issue of context.  Viewers expect that Obama is addressing everything he says to the world of TV.  But in this case, the guy is also speaking to a live audience.  People actually sitting in front of him, who have come with a detailed and specific agenda.   The fact that Obama politely acknowledged and thanked these people, before turning to the events at Fort Hood, seems to be a product of a methodical and polite nature, and not reflective of any lack of concern or gravity.  Certainly, this type of polite remark seems trivial in the face of the terrible events of earlier in the day;  just as tomorrow’s parade for the Yankees will seem ridiculous in the context of such horrible events.   It is just this shifting context of the horrible and wonderful, tragic and trivial, extraordinary and commonplace, polite and brutal, that makes up our lives.    Nothing just stops.

I’m guessing that we will hear more about Obama’s speech.   In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this terrible event, and their grieving families.