Every morning I enter a maze: My brain, the way it works, and the devices of the internet. It’s probably something we all do each day. Open our eyes, do the things nature demands of us, and more likely than not fire up a computer.
I usually start paying out a string leading a trail back to reality when I open my email. A brief stop to ensure that there’s nothing in the personal account and on to the public Yahoo address where I allow total strangers to praise, insult, or react in any way they see fit to what I’ve put out for general consumption.
At one time I actually was excited to see mail there; wow people are reading what I’m writing, cool. Now half the time I don’t want to read it. There are some addresses I will always read comments from, and not because they agree with me, but because they don’t, and I want to see what they say.
Preaching to the converted is useless and unless I’ve just been venting – when that happens all bets are off – I try to avoid that. I’ll fail as often as I succeed, but the only way to tell is reading those who don’t normally agree with you. Intelligent arguments are worth more than twenty endorsements.
They help shape the way you think, so that you can make your arguments clearer, and, if you are truly honest, will make you question your own argument. Questioning yourself opens the way to either stronger points to support your case or could, horror of horrors, make you change your mind. Sometimes it’s too early in the morning to go there, and you put that off until after third or fourth coffee. (Remember it’s good for you, fights cancer and is a cheap speed rush. You ever wonder why so many of us ex-drinkers swamp ourselves in coffee? Yeah, me too.)
Now that I’ve wandered into other people’s minds: been stimulated, nauseated, and made to laugh, I begin to pay out a little more string and float out further into cyber land. Virtual reality may be coming, with total immersion etc. but I think for me this is virtual enough. Getting sucked into another world through my fingers on the keyboard and my eyes on the screen is plenty for me.
Even with that string tugging on my ankle getting back to myself is hard enough as it is. Reading a variety of wire services to get different takes on the world’s path that day is enough to make you lose all sense of yourself. Wrapped up in righteous indignation, it’s easy to lose perspective, and not notice things like the sun is shining through the window of the room you’re in.
Now the panic sets in. What to write about? What’s the hook? I need my fix of posting today and I want it to be good. What a rush when you fling your words out to the world. There’s a hypodermic that comes out of your internet connection, pumping high-grade heroin into your veins, and without it your day sucks.
It’s getting to the point where I’m needing the fix sometimes twice a day, maybe even three times now, so the addiction getting heavy. The immediacy of response, the ego stroking of publishing; it all plays big in the mind. Those things stimulate endorphin production far better than any morphine I’m given by my doctors, or the anxiety meds I pop nightly.
Reactions like a junkie cut off from his source when my computer stumbles out of the gate, or my server goes bonkers and refuses to allow me access to my account, are the clues leading me to realize what’s going on. Ensuring my fix by getting up at 2:00am so that I’ve got something published before most people are even awake. That way if my day gets full, I don’t have to worry about having a blank spot on my calendar.
What methadone is there that’s going to replace the anxiety/excitement/nail-biting search for something to say? The actual doing of the writing is almost anti-climatic, in the way it levels off the buzz. The peak came when the idea’s found, that nugget that causes you to puke on your keyboard.
Once the idea is found you have to pull yourself back to sitting in your body at the computer. You could have followed some link through twenty odd pages until your target was found. The string had gotten wrapped around pop-ups, search engines, re-directs and all the other detritus of the Internet.
The first initial terror of staring at the blank page of the new document is often enough to hasten reality’s return. But now it’s lost, the idea that was generated somewhere in/out there on the net is at one end of that string, while I’m here at the other. But I’ve learnt my lesson and have left knots in the form of minimized windows scattered along my path.
Charting the twists and turns, they not only get me home, but connect the intangible idea that has to be given corporal shape by the tapping of finger tips on keys, to where I’ve been patiently awaiting my return. Okay, now that I’m holding this thread, what do I do with it?
Feed it into the other maze that is my brain and try to guide it down the coherency pathway that supposedly transmits raw data into clean and crisp sentences that inform and tantalize. If appropriate find the humour/satire sequencer, and cross-reference information in the data banks to check for other angles and avenues of approach.
Have to be careful of backfires and overloads: dangerous situations where words come out sideways, and sentences turn into novels. Enabling pithy control can sometimes help but it tends to be bypassed when emotion heats up. Ornamental vocabulary plug-ins help to add colour, but they have a tendency to override the commonsense attributes that make for clarity of thought.
Finally done and all I want to do is be rid of the thing. The trip is turning into a bummer of repeated spell checks and grammar corrections. I need to feel that sense of accomplishment soon or else!! Second-guessing has made it all sound like crap and if I don’t send it somewhere else soon I’ll never publish. It’s starting to lurk like some evil troll in my mind that tells me I’m utter crap and nobody wants to read your shit anyway so why do you bother?
Offering apologies to the editor for any and all things missed, hoping it’s not so pathetic that they don’t just throw their hands up in despair and say fuck this shit, and smack it into oblivion with a keystroke, I publish.
Relief, triumph, guilt, and uncertainty are a heady mix of a high on which to end a morning’s work. The best thing to do after that is to clean out the cat boxes. Nothing like ammonia-scented cat piss mixed with clay powder to clear your brain of any hangover from the morning fix.
Welcome back to your life, and fill the time until the next craving strikes, and then, the same thing all over again. Jennifer Warrens may warble about “No Cure For Love”, but Cupid’s arrow is nothing to the siren song of online publishing. The mind may be a horrible thing to waste, but sometimes it sure can lay waste to you.