Open, Open, Open


They talk about neolithic agriculture on the radio. “Caribou or reindeer are strictly arctic.” Neanderthals buried their dead in caves. In the background the Globe and Mail is refreshing every 120 seconds. I learn about the Blue Jays in slices, crumb by crumb. Lisa will be home soon. A city squirrel is a neurotic, anxious creature, forced into close contact with many species of animal (humans, cars) that might otherwise present some danger to it. It pauses at the top of a gigantic black garbage can. Looks at me.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing, I don’t have a problem with you.”

“Do you have a problem with me?”

“No, I don’t have a problem with you.”

The squirrel darts up the tree. Chits something to his neighbour.

“I think he had a problem with me.”


I keep thinking about ‘opening the floodgates’. Some days it is has been hard to write. If I am honest with myself I will say these days have gone slowly because I avoided it for other things, or because of despair. Instead of attacking the problem directly, if I feel that I don’t have the time to do that, I will despair. It’s a useless and debilitating reflex. I have many things to write. In order to write them I have to turn my brain into a monastery. At least when I am alone. I work best if, when I am alone, I turn my brain into a monastery. Internet, you have done me no wrong but I don’t like you.

I’m surprised that I’m able to concentrate while the radio is on. I am not really concentrating.

When Lisa comes home I will look at her like I am a squirrel. There will be a lightness in my head that will pull me away from our conversation. If the computer is still on my head will feel like throbbing magnets. At least I can say that I did this.


  1. Sometimes I think the best writing is done when it isn’t forced. Maybe the best way to go about it isn’t to scold avoidance. Maybe for the artist, art just comes. In Diary of a Bad Year, Coetzee has a character say: “Stories tell themselves, they don’t get told […] That much I know after a lifetime of working with stories. Never try to impose yourself. Wait for the story to speak for itself. Wait and hope it isn’t born deaf and dumb and blind”. I don’t know– sometimes I’ve forced through, imposed discipline, and it seems to work. But more often than not, I find discipline only engenders an outline, a basic frame. After that, it’s a concrete wall, and you just have to wait for the goddamn muse, no?

  2. Yes and no. Sometimes reluctance to write is only because you are avoiding some huge structural problem you know you have to deal with. Other times it is only laziness… and a lack of discipline. It is hard to tell between the two. But few problems are solved by simply waiting it out, though that is sometimes the solution. Other times it is the catalyst for the permanent death of something you would have at the very least liked to complete. It’s better to work and find out that way that something is unworkable. It is work, after all. It can’t always be a pleasure. And wrong paths lead to right ones.

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