Contracted some years ago to write a column for a major magazine, I found, after 12 months (or 50,000 words)--that I couldn't write any more.
Hey, that's like a paramedic with no ambulance, a traffic cop with no whistle, a Ron Jeremy unhung.
I mean, I was a professional. Professionals don't get mental blocks. They produce work on deadline, rain or shine. They are media people, lots of ego, lots of money. This, after all, is their life's calling.
But the more I got into media the more I realized that one couldn't be on all the time. Leads to burnout, marital problems. Drinking too much.
I wondered how the big boys and girls could keep it up, month after month, year after year.
I began to study my editor closely.
Still wondering what I was going to write about next, I saw my editor get up from his VDT, light a cigarette, throw his hands in the air and say, "I can't write any more.
"Let's all go to the Grey Goat."
The Grey Goat was a swell saleman's bar, very English, woody and brassy.
It was a great place to relax while watching salesmen conning each other to refine their techniques.
It was also a hangout for journalists.
Here is where my editor would take the entire staff, leaving just a skeleton crew back at work.
After a few tankards, everybody would loosen up.
"Alcoholism," the bearded editor would say. "Occupational hazard."
Tell me about it.
At the Goat that night, there was someone from the competing paper, a man I was forced to share an award with, since the Ontario Newspapers' Association couldn't figure out which one of us was better. I still harboured some resentment.
"R" was very drunk that night and still thirsty.
"Ivan. Another beer!
"I would s*ck a c*ck for another beer!"
"Have you tried Ukrainian?" I laughed.
I got the instinctive response. He then went to get another beer.
Ah, drinking in the pubs, bragging, lying constructing great sprawling novels in the smoky air.
Feeling that one was still young, that one's body would not corrode or wither, that you could tell the whole world to go "Sierra Mike Charlie." Bart Simpson at 39.
Going after someone's wife, getting a poke in the eye and surprised after the first few shooting stars that you were not as omnipotent as you thought.
The letting off of steam, the clearing of the logjam.
The next morning, the editor was all professional again, the purposefulness, the self-confidence, writing straight and clean, getting to the heart of the matter.
"Who's your favourite poet, John?" asked halfway through the morning.
"Ovid," he said, without hesitation.
"Ovid?" I asked. "The poet of love?"
"Yes," he anwered. "And one thing that Ovid said was no water-drinker ever wrote anything worthwhile."
That night I went back to the pub, got into a brawl and made a total ass of myself.
But in the morning, could I ever write.
The logjam was long gone. Ideas seemed to fly by, almost searing me with their passage.
Mind followed hand, hand followed mind, river was jungle and jungle was river.
At least that was the way it seemed to me.
"I like the way your mind works," said the girl who just finished reading the paper.
Oh if she only knew. That night when the gentleman dapper fell into the crapper.