Writing, for me, has a lot in common with a destination-less trip where I get in the car, turn the key and take off in a random direction and end up someplace totally unexpected.
Forgive me if this sounds irritating. I don’t mean for it to. In my day to day life I’m nothing like this. Really, I’m more of a habit-bound little man who would sooner lose a limb than break routine.
I have rituals.
I will get up and make coffee and go outside to smoke, come back inside and beat myself up for not being quit. Then, I will have my cereal--most often some variation on raisin bran.
Sometimes I will accidentally buy the kind with the clusters, and it really pisses me off when I pour it out and see them. I instantly remember how I hate chewing through these dense, hard, saw-dust clumps, and how they soak up all the milk and thwart the sweetness of any bite of raisin within 100 miles.
But honestly, even the accident of winding up with the wrong kind of raisin bran is sort of a routine for me, because it happens often enough. It’s a routine within a routine. Someone, somewhere, could draw a diagram of this and it might just be either the funniest or the saddest thing ever.
Thankfully, this bears no resemblance to my writing process. Once the inner critic is hog-tied and left for dead in some dusty corner of my mind, I am free to head on down the road.
I am not bound by ritual or habit.
A left turn here, a right turn there, a freeway here, a random exit to look at the world’s largest ball of twine… and then, Blam, I’ve discovered new territory. I’ve added some new geography to my internal map.
I’m not saying I find El Dorado or even Euro Disney on these little word-journeys, but I often find small little places that keep it interesting.
That’s the analogy.
But what is it about ordinary everyday life that makes it difficult for me to let go and follow this process? Why can I do this when I write, but not when I’m out in the world choosing breakfast cereals?
In ordinary, walking around life I am not so comfortable with novelty—as much as I like to tell myself I am.
I’m stubborn and obstinate about small things like choosing a meal, or choosing a new pair of sneakers. In fact, I actually have the same exact pair of Puma’s (black suede with a white leather swoosh, and white leaping puma figure on each big toe) that I had five years ago.
I’m now three pairs down the line, but it’s the same pair of sneakers. And I’ll tell you something else, when they made slight modifications in the third iteration of my sneakers, I noticed.
I stood in back of the leather-smelling shoe warehouse in the mall and actually hesitated buying them. I looked around irrationally for the ‘old pair’.
Thankfully, my little routine doesn’t enter into Puma’s design decisions. And God help me if it did, or I’d have a carbon copy of the same sneakers I wore in 2006, instead of the slightly hipper version I have now.
I’d be wearing cloned sneakers, in effect.
This leads me to a little dystopian fantasy. Imagine if I were a multi-billionaire and had controlling interests in Puma, Nike, all the big sneaker companies. Forgive me for not naming more, but my condition naturally limits the brands I am even aware of. I know of Nike, because they’re Nike and they’re everywhere. They probably own at least two of the lesser moons of Saturn, so they’re on my radar.
Anyway, imagine I was this mega billionaire and I had the power to have it all: the consistently crunchy raisin bran; the cloned black and white Puma’s; a brand of cigarette specifically made for me with no tar, or chemicals.
I’d be deeper into sameness and safety and boredom than I already am, except now I’d have the wherewithal to enforce this sameness and safety and boredom on others!
I would climb to the top of Mount Doom and declare, “One Sneaker! One Sneaker to rule them all!” The crowd of Orks below would shake their spears and cheer, and Adidas wearers throughout the shire would drop their spoons into their cluster-laden bowls of raisin bran and shudder.
There are plenty of examples in real life where people or corporations or countries, are able to achieve this kind of full spectrum dominance by enforcing sameness.
Ultimately, this drive is anti-creative, antiseptic, and in its extreme, it has more in common with death than with "survival."
But sometimes, standing in a bathrobe out in front of my apartment, smoking, I don’t see or appreciate this, because I’m stuck on the thought of getting back inside for breakfast.
Sameness is the secret urge behind any totalitarian state or tyrannical system—no matter how polite or cheerful it may appear on its face. If its chief goal is the relentless pursuit of security through sameness then you can bet it’s not a healthy system.
One of the great things about the world is the potential to fall in traps, get blown up, have a great day and have your breakfast ruined. I don’t say this because I always feel this way, but because, through the process of writing this piece, I’ve remembered it.
And I hope I will continue to remember it tomorrow or at least for the rest of this afternoon.
I’ve also come to the conclusion that my life should have more in common with my writing. It should be open and exploratory. There should be pit-stops, asides, unexpected disappointments, false starts, funny discoveries and detours. It should be creative, decidedly-bacterial, and above all, free.
(Announcer Voice) “What will happen to our Spiritual Spelunker Next...? Will he escape the icy clutches of cluster-filled breakfast cereals...? Can he overcome the twin villains... Coffee and Nicotine... Will he go on a Spirit Walk... without his beloved Puma’s... Stay Tuned...