Long Live the Slop

by rsbakker

Daily Aphorism I: The only thing worse than other people is the absence of other people. Somebody has to be judged.

Daily Aphorism II: Indiscriminate, peevish nastiness. There’s no better tonic for an immobile soul.

I wonder whether anyone has ever pondered the stages of blogging a la Piaget. I think I’ve reached my first crisis point – something like, generativity versus boredom. Bored with myself, that is. The fact is, nothing really happens when you make your living writing. My wife comes home from work bursting with stories. Me? Unless I’m lucky enough to overhear something kooky at the coffee shop, I have nada. It’s other people who make life interesting.

Thank God for boredom. For formula, the repetition of the same.

So I caught a snippet of this author on PBS talking about popular culture as a ‘slop of formulas.’ He went on to talk about how his art saves him, because only through his art is he challenged, is he taken places he ‘does not want to go.’ Bullshit. I almost bitch-slapped the flatscreen.

I had this image of him toiling over his laptop, wincing at the blisters on his fingertips. ‘No,’ he murmurs in horror. ‘No! I can’t–I can’t write that! It’s just so… so… painful… Please! Please don’t make me! Not that!

The stories we tell ourselves. The formulas we use.

Now I’ve written some personally powerful stuff (most all of it in Light, Time, and Gravity), stuff that’s triggered real tears. But was it ‘difficult’? ‘Challenging’? No. If anything, it was effortless. The shit wrote itself.

Of all the ridiculous self-aggrandizing myths humans hoist on their individual flagpoles, none is quite so stupid as the ‘tortured artist.’ I’m not saying that there’s no such thing as writers despairing over the page, weeping over their keyboards, smashing whiskey bottles against their bookcases – I’m sure there are, just as I’m sure that many take secret pride in their antics in some devious pocket of their soul.

The thing is, these are just the things that unhappy humans do, no matter what their walk of life. Since writers happen to command part of our culture’s representational heights, it means that their self-aggrandizing myths possess a cultural authority that overshadows those of normal people. It’s the circumstances that lend meaning to our pain, and make no mistake, established writers live soft lives – so very soft. Stripped of the mythology, their ‘torment’ is more akin to a wannabe diva’s horror over a zit on prom night. The martyrdom of broken fingernails and last place in the football pool.

There’s this woman who stops by the coffee shop every once in awhile, dressed like Virginia Woolf, and always aflutter in this strange way. She always makes a point of sitting next to me, and saying, ‘I’m not going to bother you,’ before delivering a verbal version of her writerly CV, while I struggle to continue typing, my eyelids aflutter in this strange way. She speaks, and all I hear is ‘I’m special. I’m sooo special. I’m not like those people. I’m like you. Yes-yes. We have to stick together, don’t you know…’

And after I finally chase her away with a thousand tacit indications of indifference, I get this hollow feeling, like I should feel guilty, but have forgotten how. Maybe next time I should buy her a sandwich or something.

It’s hard being a writer, you see. So very hard warring against the Slop of Formula – or revelling in it, as the case might be.