Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa*

So yeah, I have not written much here since December. For the most part, that is because of my distress about the outcome of the US presidential election. I had really believed that the US was moving forward to a time when we were able to protect all our citizens, put in place protections for our land and water, start to get more equitable in behavior between men and women in terms of pay, society and sexual consent, and protect workers rather than corporations… Do I need to go on?

Yeah, I was deluded. I admit it.

As a white, formerly straight, Christian, cis woman, under-descriminated (against) and over-educated, I was blind to the pain that a lot of people are in. I did not realize that white supremacy still put lives of people of color at risk systematically. I did not realize that poor whites would eat up the propaganda of fascists if it made them feel better about our capitalist economy moving their jobs to third world countries where corporations could pay the people there pennies to do work for which Americans would demand dollars. I did not realize that Americans would swallow outright lies if it meant that they didn’t have to face realities they did not want to face.

Climate change.

Wall Street executives gaming the system.

Systematic racism in our society, government, and institutions.

Systematic sexism in our… oh, wait, I’m repeating myself.

44-and-a-quarter, I thought, was clearly a celebrity has-been, born with a silver spoon in his mouth and unprepared for dignified executive power. Hillary Clinton was unarguably the most qualified presidential candidate America has ever seen.

What could possibly go wrong?

Seriously

Um, how about “everything”?

And if I had not always been a student of World War Two, and a student of the Holocaust, I might possibly not blame myself for my short-sightedness.

But I have been.

So I do.

And how can I possibly own my credibility as a writer if I am so blind as a citizen, a historian and a theologian?

(All of this kinda makes my writer’s block a little easier to understand, if I look at it that way. And we all carry this kind of baggage to our writing projects…)

I’ve spent a lot of the last ten months writing fiction, particularly fiction that prioritizes the relationships of queer people despite the prevailing social narrative that marginalizes them, people of color, and others, which the (straight, white) general public doesn’t understand. When I started writing many years ago, I wrote fantasy: reimagining the world the way I wanted it to be.

Seems like three+ decades hasn’t changed much.

Sigh.

But anyway, now that I’ve figured out what my problem has been, I can start to fix it. Or in Christian terms, do penance, from the Latin, paenitentia, regret. So I pray:

 

God of all mercy,

I confess that I have sinned against you,

opposing your will in my life.

 

I have denied your goodness in my neighbors,

in myself, and in the world you have created.

 

I repent of the evil that enslaves me,

the evil I have done,

and the evil done on my behalf.

 

Forgive, restore, and strengthen me

through our Savior Jesus Christ,

that I may abide in your love

and serve only your will.

Amen.

 

Prayer from: Enriching Our Worship. New York: The Church Pension Fund, 1998. 19. (Language changed from first person plural to first person singular. Italics mine.)

Translation of Today’s Blog Title: My fault, my fault, my most grievous fault.

Translation of Amen: Let it be so.

Yelling “Theater!” in a Crowded Fire

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Writer’s block is a thing like when you sit down on the train and realize that you have just stepped (in your brand new shoes) into the sticky residue of someone’s spilled soda. And you think, well, heat melts sugar, right? So if only the curtains of my imagination were on fire, I could pull myself out of this urban transit tarpit and actually create something.

Closet Shopping for the Blocked Writer

Style_shopping

It is easy to get into a rut, whether it comes to writing, cooking, or even wearing clothes. I do this all the time. Since I teach writing, I tend to say the same things over and over again, every semester. Since I functionally live alone, I eat the same things over and over, especially if they are easy, like baked chicken or spaghetti. And, in part because I went to Catholic school for eleven years, where I wore a uniform every day, I tend to fall into patterns of clothing.

Lately it was pointed out to me that, although nobody really cares what I say about writing or what I eat, what I wear will change people’s opinions of me, so I need to be much more intentional about it. One of the ways I have tried this is throwing out worn-out clothing even if it does have a few more months wear left in it and another way is what a friend calls “closet shopping”: digging around in the deep, dark recesses of my closet for things I haven’t worn in years. I’ve also dug around in my jewelry drawer so that I am not simply wearing the same necklace and earrings every single day.

I will say I feel better by doing this. And it made me wonder how it might work to help the rut I am in with my writing. Are there themes I used to write about more that I can revisit? Should I dig out one of my books of Hiroshige or Hokusai woodblock prints and find a new one to poetize about? Should I pick six words off my refrigerator and whack out a sestina?

And since I can’t figure out how to end this post, I will do what songs in the 1980s always did, when they kept repeating the refrain but turning the sound further and further down… I was going to do this by making the font progressively smaller, but wordpress won’t let me. Sigh.

When Even Page 51 Doesn’t Work

page51

So there I was on Wednesday morning, at work at MIT. I had no clients (because, duh, beginning of semester), no access to the Internet because of the new computer not being finished “setting up,” and two blessed hours when I could, theoretically, work my blog. Because Writing Is Easy, a thing you can do without a whole heck of a lot of technology, if only you have ideas.

Which I did not, in fact, have.

So I thought, no problem, there is the old Page 51 trick. I will look at a book or four on my shelf and see what the first sentence on page 51 is, and then I will have something to write about!

Living with Honor: “It better accepts another character of that taproot: the power of fertility.”

Bossy Pants: “When we got home I was sent to play outside so my father could shampoo the rug.”

Poetry and the Visual Arts: Page 51 is completely blank. It doesn’t even say 51.

Modernism and the Architecture of Private Life: “Like Wilde, Dorian has a home that is a product of his creative vision, filled with things that are both decorative objects and works of art.”

All of which is kind of depressing, because not only have I not found anything interesting to write about, I have also realized what a weird bookshelf I have. Sigh.

That Blank Stare

That blank stare, neck cocked up at that blank

Screen. You want not to beg. You want only

The elusive idea, the original question, the timely

Answer. It’s not motivation that is lacking,

Only the electricity flying between neurons

That passes for insight that you can pass on:

All the right words in all the right places,

So that somewhere on the other side of this

Big blue planet, another human being reads

What you wrote and says, “Oh!” and “Yes!”

And “I had always thought it was only me…”writers-block