If you buy pixels in megaquantities, as I do, it's presumably bad for my personal brand, such as it is, to admit that occasionally I run out of things to say: it's just this side of admitting that the brain occasionally shuts itself down. The brain, of course, does occasionally shut itself down; if it didn't, I'd never get any sleep at all, not that I always get all that much to begin with. And if I'm tired — and I often am — I'm at a point in my life where sensory stimuli can overwhelm the processor: it's not quite narcolepsy, but it does involve shutting off one or two senses for a brief period. I suspect that this phenomenon is exacerbated by too much Ambien. On the other hand, to the extent that I cut it back, I'm also making it more difficult to get to sleep, and the cycle will therefore repeat.

Side note to coworkers, if any should read this: This is why I don't want to talk to you before 8 am, even though I'm there well before seven. The fog, which I managed to dispel just long enough to make my morning commute, isn't going to lift entirely for the next hour, if then.

There are, you may be sure, other reasons for not saying anything beyond mere fatigue. I have occasionally characterized this Web site as an "unauthorized autobiography," but this lack of authorization does not, or anyway should not, imply that anything goes; there are topics that are tiptoed around, maybe, and others that are completely avoided. Part of this is simple reticence, but there's a self-defense factor as well: there's still an entry in the unwritten Personal Discussion Rules to the effect that "thou shalt not make thyself vulnerable," and seldom are the stakes so high that violation of this rule becomes necessary.

At times, sheer fury causes me to shut down. Consider the events of 9/11. At the time, this is what I wrote:

Blessed are the doubters; though they be thought indecisive and wishy, washy even, it would never occur to them to settle a petty grudge by mass murder.

Donald Rumsfeld was saying that the Pentagon bureaucracy needed to be shaken up, but this isn't what he meant at all. So far, I've remained just as calm as can be — going through the Oklahoma City bombing perhaps has taken some of the fright out of me, and gallows humor will take care of some of the rest. But somehow I can still see myself tumbling from bed at the stroke of midnight, sweating to beat the band and screaming my fear into the night sky.

And that was after several hours. My more immediate reaction, catalyzed by news footage of humanoids in some Middle Eastern hellhole cheering the events, was more like "Roll them in pork fat and bake them to a crackly crunch." Usually when I get to this level of hyperbole — at least, I think it's hyperbole — it occurs to me that I've reached the overload point, and I need to back away from the scene for several hours. Two days later, I'd calmed down enough to issue a relatively quiet Vent, which made only passing reference to "post-explosion street parties" and did not in any way suggest turning the participants therein into Soylent Brown, Extra Crispy. I haven't decided yet whether I regret that omission.

At another level, though, the two million or so words on this site don't affect the content of the pantry: I don't make a living off what I write. Which means that failing to come up with a string of paragraphs now and then is a lot less of a problem for me than it would be for someone who writes for a living. Bill Quick wrote today on his Facebook page:

I didn't do any writing yesterday. That depresses me. One of the hallmarks of professional writing is being able to crank it even when you don't feel like it.

And he should know, right?

Still, I feel some pressure, as noted here:

Murray Rothbard, apparently, could turn out eight pages of more-or-less final-version text in one hour, a level of productivity that makes me even gloomier as I sit here staring at a blank editor screen waiting for some actual words to materialize.

Perhaps that's why I'm not one of the pros: just waiting for the words to come may not be enough when one's dinner depends on it.

The Vent

  25 July 2010

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