ODY: Duller by the Day (13)

As one writer put it, “I hate writing. I love having written.” I feel the same way about running, although once upon a more youthful time moving these limbs could be its own reward. But I’ve long known, as athletes told themselves in advance of Barcelona, “No pain, no Spain.” I’ve proved it to myself as a writer, too, although the pain is something different, some intrinsic clumsiness in the dance between inspiration and monotony. That’s where “the dullard” I referred to yesterday comes in.

The Canadian writer David Carpenter put the writer’s need for blazingly bland routine like this: “Most writers must learn to make a pact with dullness. Not boredom, or lack of imagination or passion, but dullness of routine. Keep your daily appointment with the computer screen and keep your ass on the chair until you’ve reached your daily quota. However rich your inner life may be, seek also the dullard within.” The pact with dullness, once the initial excitement of cradling a curvy beauty in one’s arms begins to fade, is exactly what the novice guitarist needs to cultivate. This midlife strummer does, anyway. (My curvy flesh and blood beauty, now, that never gets old, though rumour has it that we might.)

They say, whoever “they” might be, that any habit requires about 21 days of faithful performance to establish. As this Old Dog marches forward on a planned year of daily strumming and picking, I have tiny shivers of embarrassed joy at the things I can (nearly) do on the guitar. Mostly, though, I’m glad to have made Carpenter’s “pact with dullness”. Getting the arse in front of the screen, or under the echoing hollows of the guitar, is a fine though very private victory. Nearly two weeks in.

What’s Next, Contortionists?

Back in February, a friend sent me a link for a juggling video. Gosh, I thought, I love my friends but they send me too much junk email. And then, as I have to do so stunningly often, my words needed seasoning and a good hard chew, because I’ve just watched the greatest performance in the history of humankind. There! Well, maybe not, but it surely brought a spark of — what, diversion? sparkle? a slice of joy? — to my quiet corner.

It was a comedian called Chris Bliss – that can’t be his real name, but if it is, he must have learned to juggle to escape the schoolyard taunting – who finishes off his act with a juggling routine. A la David Byrne in the concert video Stop Making Sense, he clicks on a portable stereo (playing “The End” from Abbey Road), takes out three white balls and starts bopping with the Beatles. I found it thrilling. Seriously! This guy has rhythm and hands. Listen, I’ve watched my share of empty-headed television, so I’ve seen people juggle chainsaws and tomatoes, all kinds of kinky things in great numbers, but this was musical and witty and pretty darned dextrous.

Then I managed to delete it before sharing, but Googlation got me to SonnyRadio, a site for a radio host in San Antonio with a bizarre niche: he likes to make people feel good about being alive. Pretty corny, but it could catch on.