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The Novelties of Doing Nothing

By Leroy James King · April 19, 2010

Over the weekend I very intentionally abandoned all writing endeavors – I had to get out of my head. There was some sort of inexplicable, lurking paranoia that was starting to perpetuate me; that the stories and projects I’ve been working on were starting to engulf me and take over my every thought process. Yes, every thought process. I found myself unable to order a cup of coffee Friday afternoon because I couldn’t decide how Chad (the protagonist in the original script I’ve been working on) would order a cup of coffee. The barista just kind of stared at me and waited, asking politely like three or four times, “Sir? Do you want anything?” Finally it hit me that, no, I’m not Chad and if I wanted something I better order as myself before everyone found out I was having a split personality moment. So I stepped out of line, went to the beginning of the line, and psyched myself up to be Leroy, not Chad.

Needless to say, when I left the coffee shop I was a little displeased with myself. This kind of weird paranoia and losing one’s self completely in a work of fiction can’t be “healthy.” I can see the novelty of it – the stigma of a writer getting lost in his or her work and suffering from it socially, psychically, every which way for the sake of art and moving people. But honestly… I don’t think it’s fucking worth it. When you start to blur the real world with ones that you’ve conjured, you don’t only stop making sense to the people around you in a coffee shop; you start to lose track of what you’re working towards in the first place. For me anyway, I’m working toward selling this script and “making a name for myself.” Yet, when if I set myself up to get lost in some sort of alternate reality, I lose perspective of my context – reaching my goal and making that name for myself gets put on the back burner.

So I’m outwardly writing an addendum to a philosophy I’ve written about previously. I said, “the writer’s retreat is writing” – that to really hone your skills and storytelling chops and all that crap, you have to be writing all the time, etc. Yes, I still agree with this… to a degree. The addendum is effectively this:

The writer’s retreat is writing… until you start suffering from it emotionally – then the writer’s retreat is to do nothing constructive whatsoever.

Yes. The writer’s retreat is doing nothing. There’s nothing like doing nothing when you need to get re-acclimated to reality. Things start coming back to you – you open up your schema to new ideas – the schema that you unintentionally shut off when you’re tunnel visioned on your concept. I guess “meditation” is closer to what I’m talking about… but doing nothing is what did this weekend to pull myself out of La-La-Land. And my god, I feel refreshed. Of course, I still thought about the projects I’m working on, but I never put pen to paper or logged any ideas that I had. It was much more about letting myself exist in a present place and time.

I just reread what I’ve written here, and Jesus – what a lofty fest… though I still agree with it 100%. The long and short of it is that I definitely do find prudence in being a workaholic from time to time. But when it starts to overtake you and dictate every decision you make, that is debilitating. To your work, your psyche, your relationships, everything. Sometimes you just have to throw up your middle finger to your priorities and make you your priority.

Whilst doing nothing this weekend, I did engage my brain somewhat by watching films about paranoia. JFK, Citizen Kane, and Loose Change (the 9/11 doc that’s on YouTube). I strived to find myself in these films – analogous behaviors of paranoid protagonists, examples of crazy behaviors, etc. But obviously… yeah… Jim Garrison, Charles Foster Kane, and the conspiracy theory addled narrator of Loose Changearen’t exactly “representative” of where my head’s at right now.

Which brings me to a bold, 2 part conclusion:

1) I’m not crazy.

2) Adaptation is simply the best movie about writing…and paranoia.  Period.

No, I didn’t watch it this weekend (it’s conspicuously disappeared from my DVD library), but I can’t express enough how well this film pontificates how writing can drive you mad.

My next blog is going to be a hardcore dissection of Adaptation, so if you haven’t seen it, take a look.

3 cheers for being brought back to reality.