There are lots of difficult jobs. It’s easy to get tired, bored, frustrated, overwhelmed, and burned out. Only in writing, however, does one get “blocked.” Nobody ever says “I’ve got dental block,” or “table-waiting block,” but writers get it a lot. It’s like stage fright or, I guess you’d say, page fright. I’ve written eleven books and about 40 zillion magazine articles — well, probably not that many, but I started doing it when I fourteen, writing about rock groups for teen zines. That was, ahem, a while ago.
My last book came out in April of 2012. It’s doing well. The publisher wants another one in the same subject field, veganism. I even have a recipe creator since vegan books need recipes. I have no excuse except competing ideas: “Write about me…No, meeeeee!…Uh-uh: me first!” It’s like having a daycare center in my brain. When this happens, writers have long known that the most reliable cure is to get away from regular life and in a different and undemanding environment, simply allow the words to come. They can be awful. They will be awful. But out of awful comes literature — or, in my case, self-help books that, if I do my job right, read as well as literature. I’d toyed with going off to the country, but I don’t like the country. I’ve never felt altogether safe when there’s too much distance between me and an escalator — or whatever other emblem of urbanity you want to pick. This week, my two adult stepchildren came to visit at the same time, always lots of fun but a bit of a crowd in a Manhattan apartment, so the timing seemed right to let them and their dad have the condo, and for the dog and me to web-search a deal on local lodging.
I found us a decently priced hotel in Chinatown, my favorite part of the city. It’s electrically alive. It’s also a lot like China — or perhaps more like Taiwan; I spent quite a bit of time in both places back in the 90s. I’ve heard that China is now a lot like the West. Chinatown isn’t, and coming here is like travel without jet lag. We checked in around 4 — the earlier part of the day involved a lot of prep and catch-up — and then set out to explore our new, temporary environment. I’d forgotten dog dishes so we went to a kitchen store for those, and made a post office run, and I went into the salon on Pell Street, where I sometimes get my hair blown just to make an appointment, but my guy there, Rex, said he could take me now, dog and all. Newly coiffed, I picked up dinner at Vegetarian Dim Sum and brought it back to the room. Forbes — that’s my dog — really likes mock duck, and I have broccoli and black mushrooms left for breakfast.
My purpose here is to finish the proposal for my next book and get that to my agent and editor before I check out of this hotel at noon on Saturday. There will be a couple of interruptions — I’ll do my radio show on Wednesday from here, and Thursday morning my assistant will either come in or work from home and I’ll have to turn my attention from writing to all my other work (all that other work is another reason for the blockage, I’m sure). But other than that, Forbes and I are here for one reason: get the proposal done — well, take walks and sniff stuff, too, but those are more Forbes’s priorities.
Tonight I’m finishing up everything that needs finishing and starting tomorrow fresh with my writer hat on. It is, after all, pretty much my favorite hat.