When it comes to posting on my blog, I take my responsibility very seriously. I aim to post at least three times per week. I have a schedule that maps out five discrete but related content categories—or, as we call them in content marketing, pillars. I try to identify subjects that, while perhaps seen through a personal lens, are comfortably familiar to my readers. When people read my work, I want them to say, “Yes, exactly!” That’s why, when I sit down to hammer out a post, I think of Alexander Pope’s admonition from “An Essay on Criticism”:
True Wit is Nature to advantage dress’d
What oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d;
Something whose truth convinced at sight we find,
That gives us back the image of our mind.
Unfortunately, the vastness of social media ensures that pretty much anything that was oft thought has been well express’d about a million times. So dressing one’s particular viewpoint to advantage can sometimes feel like a Sisyphean rock-roll, especially when you’re not feeling 100 percent. Such is the challenge of the committed blogger.
This morning I have a nasty cold. Having gone for a year without a bug, I ended up having back-to-back colds in one month, which just strikes me as wrong. Adding insult to injury, I’ve run out of Kleenex, which necessitates a roll of toilet paper by the computer. When I sat down this morning to write, I found my writerly lens obscured by seven pounds of snot and a persistent throbbing in my temples. The half-pot of coffee I consumed doesn’t seem to have any effect other than to make me irritable. A few minutes ago, the cat jumped on my desk and strolled in front of my laptop, waving her ass in my face as if to say, “Here’s a little something you can write about, big boy.” Even that bit of inspiration couldn’t nudge my mental transmission into drive.
As I sit here, I have a view of the bird-feeder (about which I blogged recently). All kinds of birds alight there to peck at suet plugs that look like sawdust and smell of peanut butter. Watching this feeder over the months, I’ve noticed there’s a definite pecking order (I have a cold, I’m entitled to a pun) among the avian customers. It feels decidedly Swiftian in its byzantine complexity. Do the chickadees, waiting their turn in the denuded maple tree, mutter to each other about the fucking greedy woodpeckers? What do the plain-clothes sparrows say about those natty little chickadees and their bouncing about? These ruminations, however, are just distractions from the job at hand.
Writing on Half-Power
I keep a list of potential topics for my posts, which proves useful when spontaneous ideation fails me. This morning I scanned the list for a subject on which I could opine with less than half my brain-power accessible. I’ve been meaning to write on T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” but that’s way too challenging. Body adornment has me fascinated; and I’ll definitely spend some time on that, but today I have nothing. Race, social justice, and politics are always high on my list, but those topics require mental clarity and force of expression. As it stands, I’m reserving all force of expression for the nuclear sneezes that nearly separate my nose from my face.
This all leaves me to write about my chief preoccupation—or lack of preoccupation—today. Every writer stares this topic down at some point, whether peering blankly into a laptop screen or at the keys of a Corona typewriter. I have no idea whether Pope would approve of this anti-topic, much less my mode of expression, but he’s dead and I have a headache. Surely there were days when he sat down in his grotto to write a few couplets and found the creative well empty. Would he have chucked his quill into the woods and trudged back home? Perish the thought, I tell myself. He would have strung together a few earnest iambs on nothing in particular—and made it sound like something:
Although the Muse withholds her fruits today,
Once drawn, the sword must cleave or rust away:
So too, the pen, once ink’d, its work must tend,
And Art with Naught, the blogger’s craft must blend.
After all, writing means finding inspiration in anything and everything, even when it’s absolutely nothing at all.