I had just completed a run and had cleaned myself up, after which I walked out of the bathroom and sat on the edge of my bed. And then, head in hands, I just stared at the floor.
I just sat there, and kept staring.
Now, I have to lend a little context to this, of course. My father was in the hospital for a while last week. That run I did was part of a near-daily routine I have now to better prepare for future belt tests at my karate dojo. A high school teacher who was very influential to me just died. My time, energy, and attention has been occupied by a lot of other things lately.
So I just felt like sitting and staring at the floor for a while.
Comedian Bo Burnham recently released a new special on Netflix entitled Inside. He made it over the course of the past year, entirely at his home and entirely by himself. In one sense it's a microcosm of all the despair and cabin fever into which the pandemic has thrust most of us, in another it's a commentary on the ways social media conditions us to harmful and addictive behaviors, and in yet another it's a glimpse into how Burnham himself has experienced the past year.
Many of the songs and brief prosaic commentaries show someone who has struggled with being alone and with the frustrations of an extended creative process that, at least at the time, doesn't seem to have a definitive end in sight.
The song of his that hit me the hardest was (and is) "All Eyes on Me:"
In the middle, he tells a story about quitting live performances because he had started having panic attacks on stage, and he had just reached a point where he was ready to do them again when the pandemic hit. That long break, that need to reinvent himself, only to find that he'd need to wait a while longer. So instead, he sits in a room alone for a year to write, record, and perform songs for a streaming special.
Mental health and creativity sometimes don't mix well. They may produce raw, tortured, and even impressive results, but that may not be what the creator originally intended.
So anyway, back to my bedroom floor. That moment was a microcosm of my last week emotionally, but beyond that it was a reflection of where I feel I am right now creatively. It was a continuation of the wall I hit last week.
I sit at my computer to think about new blog posts or podcast episodes...and I don't have much. I have a few ideas, but I don't have a lot of energy to follow through with them right now. Life events, my own anxiety, and a dry well are all combining in a perfect storm to produce...not much of anything.
Burnham made something transcendent and ingenious. I am not going to attempt to hold myself to the same standard.
Instead, I'll just say that I'm not going to promise anything in terms of output. I'm probably the only one holding me to any standard related to this. But I've been doing things a certain way for so long that any kind of lapse--outside of a formal, announced break--seems to me like an abnormality.
If nothing else, I'll always have that spot on the floor. Maybe if I look at it long enough, inspiration will emerge through the carpet.