We're Gonna Do Drugs, Folks
A Lynchline Subscribers-Only Update That I Just Made Public, Actually
About ten years ago, I watched a video of filmmaker Kevin Smith discussing the time he was invited to Paisley Park to participate in an extremely loosely-defined collaboration with the late Prince. Although no actual project emerged from that strange brief interlude, Smith was able to spend some time talking with various members of Prince’s staff. One of them let slip that Prince had spent years writing and recording an entire body of hidden work— entire albums and cycles of music videos, all fully professionally produced, all locked straight away into Prince’s vault unreleased, for reasons of Prince’s own.
Smith didn’t know quite how to take this. Was it quirky disinformation, an exaggeration, a misunderstanding? I assumed it must have been something of that nature when I first heard the story— even for Prince, a man whose eccentricity could barely be measured by the metrics of planet Earth, it seemed too much. Then, in 2016, Prince passed away and the existence of his unreleased song vault was confirmed to the world (as of this writing, it’s still being catalogued, and to the best of my knowledge its true size and scope have not been revealed).
I bring this up, because it turns out I have been filling a tiny Prince vault of my own. Or, perhaps, my brain chemistry has been allowed to curate such a vault for too long without oversight.
I don’t have much experience of writer’s block. Other than the need for an ocasional break and some reasonable interludes of fallow brain time, I’ve never had sustained trouble with composition, even when wracked with anxiety and depression. Despite my generally fragile mental state during the pandemic, I have remained more or less steadily productive, writing and editing thousands of words on a weekly basis. Words which I have been completely unable to show anyone, thanks to the crushing goddamn chest-filling pressure-out-to-my fingertips sensations that herald another anxiety attack… sensations I am experiencing right now, and have been experiencing intermittently in the time it has taken me to write the current toal of five (5) paragraphs on display here. When did I begin this writing process? Four (4) days ago.
“There’s a very real chance this update, too, will go into the vault,” I just typed. If I actually manage to finish this and hit send, I presume I will put that sentence in quotation marks or something. How’s that for a glimpse of the writing process? I have not yet put the quotation marks in. The sentence starting with “I have not yet” was finished 17 hours after I typed “there’s a very real chance.” That is the rate of meaningful progress when anxiety is my co-pilot. This sentence, being written a mere 45 minutes after the last, is the first to be composed under the increasing influence of the anti-anxiety medication I took with dinner.
Because this nonsense has gone on long enough.
In my miniature Prince vault are, at a minimum, seven short stories, a novella, a novelette, a novel, and a number of essays for this newsletter. At the beginning of the pandemic I would occasionally joke with myself or my wife that “we dont’ want a Prince vault situation,” but here we are, having one. The plain fact is, my career as a writer is in danger at the moment, and the danger grows with every month I don’t get this under some measure of control, because while my existing books continue to perform very well there is a difference between being a working writer and a person who used to write, and there is only so much my patient editors and publishers and readers can be asked to wait for without clear answers. There is very little practical value in being a writer who falls over heaving and gasping every time he attempts to show people what he’s made. In short, there is very little practical value in me, as I presently am, and I am desperately tired of this, tired of it ruining my fun, tired of it confusing my audience, tired of it eating my self-respect, tired of it receding a little bit only to come roaring back stronger than ever.
So, we’re gonna take drugs, kids. I’ve already started. Ten years ago finally admitting that an antidepressant was necessary probably saved my life. In my usual fashion, since then I have resisted various pushes to take anti-anxiety medication as well, but I am through refusing. I need some answers. I need some goddamn changes. I need to be able to get this newsletter out on a non-geological timescale, among other things. I need to have an active social skill more in-depth than feigning approximately human functionality on Twitter. I’m forty-three, and I don’t want another fucking year to go by with several years of good work (though I say it myself) locked up tight in my stupid little vault of anxieties.
The medication, it has been taken, and will be taken again, and we’ll see what it can do for me. I am feeling very strange as I write this… a different sort of strung-out and nauseated than usual. It’s like someone has taken a hot towel to my usual tense anxiety attack, massaged the knots out of it, turned it into bizarre brain-drifting lassitude. My fingers are not exactly adroit upon the keys this evening, and I apologize for misspellings. I wonder if I might have been wiser to cut the pill I took in half… ah well. It already kowabunga’d its way down to the lightless water park of my innards, where it celebrated its last few moments of existence before being taken apart by my trusty acids, so the molecules of power could be stripped and shipped directly to my nervous system, where they are now doing… something.
It has to be this way. I’m tired of hiding my work and hiding from the pain of getting it back out into the world. So, drugs. Drugs and ongoing therapy.
I just put quotation marks around “There’s a very real chance this update, too, will go into the vault.” That’s a good sign. But now can I actually hit send and get this thing out the door? You’re about to find out. We both are.