I started to write a few paragraphs and ended up God knows where, probably thousands of words down the line. I'm not sure what's going on with me, although I'm tempted to see it as good. I've spent a fair amount of time over the past few months thinking about a familiar situation, knowing I'm capable of writing and having absolutely nothing to write about.
That's really the question, and always had been. I don't even think of myself as a writer, a hard thing to explain when I've been getting paychecks for nearly 20 years now for, y'know. Writing. Pretty hard to explain. Not today.
But here I am, just running off at the keyboard lately, and not because I'm trying to set a good example. I just feel better. There may be some mojo yet. Still haven't come up with something to write, but words? They still work, apparently.
I'll spare you the torrent today, though. Take the rest of the afternoon off (except in Scandinavia, where it's already evening. And possibly August. I don't know how they do things). I'll wrap this up in a sec.
A guest writer in one of the newspapers that carry my column brightened my day this week by being very wrong. Ya gotta jump on those opportunities.
Oh, joke. It just pushed a button. The first sentence in her piece set up the whole thing: Robert Frost wrote that “good fences make good neighbors” in his 1914 poem “Mending Wall.”
It's not that I'm a poetry snob, or a Frost snob (my affection for him is strong, though, and sort of primal). It's just that he's such a master at meter and wordplay, at careful construction, that I suspect it's easy to miss his enormous sense of irony. And misinterpreting this poem is so common it's become a cliche, and we can't have that.
In other words (heh), the poem isn't about fences being good, but the opposite (or, in the case of The Road Not Taken, also conventionally misunderstood, he's writing about random choices, and how we elevate them into significant life events when really they're not. We just pick a road. It doesn't really matter which one).
But I just know that, and because I like Frost. It was a good article with good points, too. She just picked the wrong line from the wrong poem. Sometimes reading is hard, too.
Almost done. UPDATE: Not really.
While I consider what if anything I could possibly add to the conversation, in terms of writing, I'll note my biggest regret. It's not really a regret, either. But I wish it had worked out in a different way, and I haven't exactly given up on it, either.
We just want to make a small difference, right? At least do no harm, but maybe contribute, in a small way. I think this, sometimes. Be entertaining, usually, mostly, but maybe there's something I can toss in that inspires.
I've actually inspired, as it turns out. There's a local city councilwoman who decided to run for office based on something I wrote, once, long ago. She emailed me and spoke about it in interviews. That's not nothing.
And when I got really into walking, opening up my horizons and learning how good it felt to move on a regular basis, I got some adherents. I know a fair amount of people who walk today for exercise who claim it's because I wrote about it so much. Not nothing, either.
My stories of weight loss got some interest, too. I mean, we all want to lose weight. Global obesity is a thing, common now and certainly a problem. I don't think it's nearly our most pressing problem, and some of it is definitely overstated, but we're all people here. We'd rather not feel all lumpy and out of breath, with floppy shirts and relaxed-fit jeans. We'd all like to feel like this, no?
But if wishes were horses? Or horses could fly? Or pigs were horses? I'm confused here, but if I could make a difference?
I know how to help you. I can help you. I can't help you if you don't listen to me. Let me help you.
That's just so attractive, too. I'm overwhelmed by my own awesomeness.
I try to stay away from generalities. I question myself constantly. I'm always wondering if I'm wrong. I have confidence issues, sometimes.
But I'm right about this, and it's a remarkable thing. Have you ever run across a neat trick online? A quick way to fold T-shirts, or boot up your phone, or read paywalled articles for free? That's all it is. I discovered a trick. I wanted to tell everybody about it. No one really wants to hear, for understandable reasons. I've tried. I have the best intentions. I don't have a stake in this at all. I'd like people to be happier, even though I wonder about that. But I could definitely help you lose weight and keep it off.
But I can't, obviously. I've tried, as longtime readers are painfully aware. Over and over again. It fascinated me, this discovery of mine. It's not a discovery, either. Just simple stuff, stuff we've been told all of our life, or could have been told. I wrote for days last September, at the 10-year mark, trying to find a way to explain. Can't do it. Again obviously.
It's more of a philosophy, in fact. For tens of thousands of years, human beings have struggled to find enough food to eat. It's driven our evolution, and we've evolved into sophisticated metabolic engines, storing and retrieving energy in efficient and really remarkable ways.
And people who seem to gain weight easily, and have a family history of the same? Evolutionary winners, of course. Our ancestors mutated, learned to stretch a calorie, to slow down their metabolic processes, use less energy and stay alive. And since we're all survivors of evolution...
There's too much energy now, and it's all so recent. Our available food has exploded since World War II, for just one timestamp. Add into the mix high-calorie foods that didn't exist, didn't need to exist, their abundance and ubiquity, and we have ourselves a problem, Houston. Not just Houston.
We have to stop thinking that there's a normal way to eat, that if we just rely on how full we feel, if we just put down the fork, move more and eat less, all sorts of happy bullshit, we'll do fine and we won't. We can't. We have to count now. We have to watch what we eat, all of us. We have to pay attention.
My success with this coincided with technology. I spend about five minutes a day logging my nutrition, all of it. It's a rough approximation, always, but it tends to work out with some easy feedback loops.
But, meh. I can't even help my wife, who has heart disease and would like to drop 10 pounds or so, maybe more. If I can't help her, I can't help anyone. Give it up, Chuck.
Still, I think about writing, say, an E-book. Or hell, just a small paperback. Just put it out there and walk away. If it helps, great. If not, not a problem. I'm not aiming for a bestseller here. I mostly want to get past it, and I can't. Because I really could help you, really. Sigh. Everybody says that, too.
Ha. We're over 1200 words. I can't believe this shit. I really need to write something good. Moving on now, folks. Nothing to see here. Spandex! Nope, nothing.