Oldies but Goodies
A Random Walk Down the White Noise Archives
n.b. Welcome to the seventy-seven people who have tuned into White Noise since my last note! White Noise is my humble attempt to make sense of the content I consume and thoughts that give me pause in today’s information deluge. If you have yet to subscribe, join nearly a thousand smart, curious folks by doing so here:
n.n.b. Pay attention and be present to the little things—the warble of a red-breasted robin, the heavy dewdrop straining an edged blade of grass, the fine lines and wrinkles that lattice a loved one’s grinning face—one day in the not-so-far-off future, you’ll realize that they were the big things all along.
Above: Someone call Betty White (Noise).
I am afraid that the pressure of perfectionism has conspired against me over these past few weeks, dear friends, hence my absence from your inboxes.
The pain inherent to the writing process has ached a bit more acutely as of late. It has brought about both the pull-my-hair-out grinds and the I-just-don’t-have-it-anymore feelings that my best creative days lie behind me.
It is a visceral, personal, messy process; a near-Sisyphean labor that is often more gnashing of teeth than graceful progression. Writing this very piece resembles a stilted sort of dance — a continuous oscillation of three steps forward and two steps backward.
Indeed, the blank white page has felt a bit more daunting. I hesitate to disturb it, lest I mar that which seems limitless in its pregnant possibility. Like footsteps on a smooth blanket of snow or a grey-black tattoo on an open canvas of skin, I am reluctant to mark irrevocably that which might be better kept white and clean and pure.
This creative paralysis contains multitudes.
It is part mental, driven by a nagging desire to write something worthy of the five or so minutes you set aside to ingest my heaping helping of words. I fear that I may deliver a smattering so unpalatable that you reject or regurgitate that which I offer due to intellectual indigestion.
It is part self-imposed, a creative prison of mine own making. Amidst this deadlock, without fail my mind wanders to three fundamental, yet disturbing truths:
"I know that I know nothing" —Plato’s account of Socrates
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” —Ecclesiastes 1:9
“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” —Pablo Picasso (allegedly)
It is part sloth, a taking of the easy way out by succumbing to my mind’s beguiling refrains of “Rest now, it will be there tomorrow for you to pick up.”
It is part failure to carve out those oh-so-very-few hours to rest and exist in that airy, aimless mental state which provides fertile ground where seeds of ideas can sprout into strong saplings.
It is part succumbing to and shooting up of social media’s addictive dopamine drip; a grabbing of my proverbial surfboard (read as: iPhone) to ride the undulating, ceaseless waves of the internet.
The sum of these many parts manifests as hefty mental lodestone that encumbers my normally lithe thoughts and nimble ideas. Like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, I desperately want to touch that which I cannot have; to reach those heights to which I am unsure I can climb. Perfection looms as mere asymptote towards which I must continue to careen.
In a way, I harbor tremendous guilt.
As American poet Mary Oliver once wrote, “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time."
All throughout this paralysis, I have felt this unruly yearning to create something beautiful, unique, true, but have taken the road more traveled by — that paved with short-term, fleeting satisfaction at the expense of long-term, enduring advancement.
The feeling is half-menacing and half-sweet; it is both carrot and stick that beckon and terrify, respectively.
However, as author Steven Pressfield once wrote, “The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it."
And so, I write.
It is my art; something sacred, honest, searing that is made beautiful by its tremendous difficulty — the headaches it drills, the hunches it smooths, the fingers it makes sore.
It is my catharsis; that process by which I extricate persistent thoughts that cling to my psyche despite my best efforts to brush them aside. As Anne Frank once wrote, “I can shake off everything as I write.”
It is my asynchronous conversation; my attempt to pen words that provide more light than heat, sentences that inspire others to say: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one!”
Though an enervating, disheartening journey at times, I am better for it. And perhaps, someone, somewhere needs to hear my voice.
I have read that we either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong — the amount of work is the same. By hitting “publish” I choose strength every time.
All in all, because it is so very hard, I have not done very much writing lately.
Today I present five oldies but goodies dug out from the damp corridors of the White Noise archive. While I creatively reset, I invite you to revisit and savor the following:
Remembering Pop — A love letter to my late, great grandfather
Tetris with Word and Phrase — An exploration of why we use words that mean nothing to attempt to convey everything
On Growth — A hard look at why we must unplug in order to properly recharge
Standing Firm — A chronicle of my experience as a Tourettic ballboy at the U.S. Open
Verbal Portrait No. 2 — Thoughts on free prose and 9-to-5 corporatespeak
Per my about page, White Noise is a work of experimentation. I view it as a sort of thinking aloud, a stress testing of my nascent ideas. Through it, I hope to sharpen my opinions against the whetstone of other people’s feedback, commentary, and input.
If you want to discuss any of the ideas or musings mentioned above or have any books, papers, or links that you think would be interesting to share on a future edition of White Noise, please reach out to me by replying to this email or following me on Twitter.
With sincere gratitude,
P.S. A quote about which I have been thinking (read as — obsessing):
When it's over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it's over, I don't want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
—“When Death Comes” | Mary Oliver
P.P.S. Less writing means more reading. I invite you to peruse the fresh shelves of my digital bookshelf.