Trading Neuroses • 22 August 2008

My dream life consists of dancing plushie toys, brightly colored fish flitting amongst oversized livingroom furniture, and forests of cotton candy and singing cows. I know I know; it’s the subconscious of a toddler with a charmed damn life. I’m not a complex person. (At least I prefer not to be at almost all costs.)

The Editor (who, unlike me, doesn’t rise at 4 something in the morning) talks me to sleep each night and takes inventory of the mumblings. I try to resist, but he occasionally manages to feed an his own little joke-images into the mise-en-scene as I’m tumbling through the suggestible crossover realm before deep sleep. His little tricks don’t really qualify as subconscious disturbances.

Lately however, there’s been some bad news in Candyland.

Last weekend I dreamed my adorable, squeaking niece was half-chihuahua. Taco Bell had made her its official mascot. Her halfling picture was made into stickers and she was all over TV. Squeaking. But with gargoylish chihuahua ears and a grotesque little chihuahua body. I was taking solace that at least Taco Bell would pay for her college but then I got into a fight with her grandma, who said chihuahuas can't go to college.

Monday I dreamed I was canoeing in a fjord in winter during the Cold War (a Soviet fjord? There was a hangar-like submarine workshop in an ice floe somehow, with a mean hammer-wielding mechanic staring out the door as he floated past). Impulsively I put my head in the water and got really cold, and then water rushed in to the canoe. Then! all my companions sprang shut like contracted roly-poly insects! The turned grey and covered in scales and became freezing cold roly-poly bugs. I pulled them out of the freezing water cried to the submarine man for help and he laughed. And I couldn’t help my friends come unstuck even though they were all very upset and cold and about to die. I woke up begging the man to help them. Not ok.

What’s going wrong? Is it my night-time reading?

Lately, rather than little poems or scriptures or ancient aphorisms before bed, I’ve been reading anti-anti-anti-romantic bits about the writing process. Like THIS, and the below. The author of the excerpt, Paul Silvia, is a behaviorist for godsakes. Is there a philosophy of the human I dislike more than behaviorism? Ok, maybe fascism. But this guy quotes BF Effing Skinner in polite conversation! (No good terrible very bad bad bad: Skinner’s the rat researcher who black-boxed the mind in the 60s and from whom psych is just now sort of recovering, and only sort of). Here’s a passage from Silvia’s How to Write a Lot (pp.45-7):

“Wait,” you might say. “So far, this book hasn’t said anything about writer’s block…” I love writer’s block. I love it for the same reasons I love tree spirits and talking woodland creatures—they’re charming and they don’t exist…. Academic writers cannot get writer’s block. Don’t confuse yourself with your friends teaching creative writing in the fine arts department….

Writer’s block is a good example of a dispositional fallacy: A description of behavior can’t also explain the described behavior. Writers block is nothing more than the behavior of not writing. Saying that you can’t write because of writer’s block is merely saying that you can’t write because you aren’t writing. It’s trivial. The cure for writer’s block—if you can cure a specious affliction—is writing….

Just as aliens abduct only people who believe in alien abductions, writer’s block strikes only writers who believe in it. One of the great mysteries of the writing schedule system—a spooky mystery, in fact—is that scheduled writers don’t get writer’s block, whatever that is. Prolific writers follow their writing schedule regardless of whether they feel like writing… oblivious to the otherworldly halo hovering over their house.

Soo… Let’s be honest. Isn’t it good? I guess it’s upsetting on the subconscious level to get my bullshit subverted right before bedtime, but this is some transformational scripture and I’m learning to deal with it. Not at all beautifully written, annoyingly behaviorist, patronizing, not in any way fun… but also… true, inspiring, and awfully useful.

An excellent little mindfuck of a bedtime meditation. Thanks, Paul.