Friday, September 23, 2011

"Trauma" in the work place and the Affect of Fascism on Artists

Last week I did a blog about a great little movie called, "The Lives of Others".
Ooookay, Adolf, calm down... Fascists are Fascists
In that film, it described how two Stasi Officers are talking about interrogation techniques. As usual, in a Fascist State, those in control are demonizing those with no control. And one of the most delicate of those groups are those of the Artists. Artists are the soul of a group. I would argue, even more so than those of religious thought or possibly of Philosophical diciplines. Stalin once said: "As comrade Olesha aptly expressed himself, writers are engineers of human souls." That is incorrectly and frequently attributed to "Uncle Joe", The Brute, himself.

In the film, one Stasi Officer tells the other how, when they finished interrogating artists, one of the benefits of their interrogation technique is that the artist never produces his Art again. Chalk one up for the Evil Empire.

What is it that fascists are always so fearful about art? Well, it questions and calls attention to, their actions and orientation, those things that once brought to light, are easily seen as foolish, as simply ridiculous and they rapidly begin to whilt and dissapate.

Along with that, let me say that I have never believed in a thing called a "Writer's Block". It always seemed to me that it was pure laziness of mind, a lack of discipline, a way an amateur can avoid writing, and so on. I have had periods when I didn't write but I never attributed it to Writer's Block.

When this Summer began, I was told at my day job where I support internet technologies, that there was a certain situation about to happen due a lack of funds for infrastructure support. I work at a large Health Insurance Company and current events in Healthcare in the government, as everyone knows, have severly affected companies like this with layoffs, restructuring and grief all around. We have needed something to be done, I've agreed with the need for changes the government has been working on in health insurance and healthcare in general, and I'm glad I work for one of the better health insurance companies. But it's been painful for those people (like myself) in the "trenches".

What I read in that statement about funding was that my Summer was going to be pure Hell and I could easily, later, be seen to blame for much of it if I wasn't careful. And it was. Pure Hell. I didn't realize just how "traumatic" that Summer was going to become. And please note that I use the word "trauma" accurately but it is a far lesser use of the world than I'm sure many people have gone through. It doesn't refer to being in a car accident, a bad relationship (though similar) or torture or war. Alas, it is trauma, nonetheless.

I haven't taken off more than a week of vacation at a time in decades, but this Summer, I did. At the end of August, I felt I had to take off two weeks due to being emotionally drained. My nerves, I've been saying, were "frayed". I was ready to quit my job two or three times.

So I did take the time off and last Monday started back at work again.

Now I had seen the hardest part, the first third of the situation done and completed, before I took that time off. And a few other things have happened so that now that I am back, the pressure from before is mostly gone. Still, of course, I have that feeling that I am doing the same old thing. But my nerves are no longer now frayed, I don't have people hovering over me about those things now and I have had the support of the management staff above me. And that is very important.

But, that is my day job; my job that pays my expenses, my bills, my mortgage. The job that allows me to follow my artistic writing pursuits without question of doing what I want to do. I have this blog to do to see it available on a daily basis. I have an anthology of short stories currently at the publisher, but I've been thinking of rewriting it, having more clarity now on how I would like to change it. I have a screenplay adaptation being actively marketed. I have another original screenplay nearly done and another screenplay in treatment form that I am working on with a Producer in California.

That last screenplay needs to be completed by end of September, at leats the Treatment does in the worst case. The trouble is that I had planned to work on it during my vacation. No, that didn't work, because I was busy trying to unwind and heal up by traveling, visiting, basically wearing myself out so that when I returned to my job, I would feel like it was a longer vacation.

I also had my nineteen year old daughter living with me this summer, saving up money for her trip to Europe for nine  or more months. Last Monday she landed in Iceland to begin her journey and is having a grand time of it. But it took a toll on us both while she was here, her now trying to live her life as an adult, feeling out who she is, and doing some of it around Dad; trying to mesh our somewhat unmeshable lifestyles considering our age and experience differences at this point in her life, isn't the most easy or fun thing to do for any teen. So that was a little stressful but we also had fun and I enjoyed seeing one of my two kids back around the house again for a while. Still, trying to live with your adult children (or as one of them, trying to live with your parent), is... problematic at times.

Once the vacation was over and I was back to work, I tried to start working the script again, and that hadn't worked too well. See, I was still burned out from the Summer's work, then from my vacation (though now more mentally at ease), and from my daughter staying here over the Summer, and then from her leaving (yeah, there's just no pleasing some people), which has left me with a need to readjust to living alone again (my German Shepherd is taking it even harder than I am that one of the kids has yet again, moved out).

I worked on the script a touch here and there, but nothing like I was doing before. I am getting my energy and desire to work on my writings again however. By holding back and not forcing myself, I've had a feeling of "come on, let's go, I wanna writing again", but then holding off and continuing to take it easy and do no work. It left me feeling guilty at times that I wasn't working on it (I profess to being Buddhist now, but I was, rasied Catholic, thus the guilt). But what that did was motivate me, building up the artistic energies.

So that begs the question... do I have "Writer's Block"? That thing I don't believe in? This brings me back to that film I mentioned at the beginning.

In traumatizing artists, in an artist getting traumatized, can you cut off their artistic pursuits? Was I therefore, traumatized by my job over this Summer? Do you cut off their talent, or their desire to pursue them?
I knew I could write (thus, no writer's block) but I also knew, that I should give myself a break and I felt I knew I would know when that break was or should be, over. Basically it was a feeling of, "I just don't want to do this". But I knew when that passed, I could be 100% back into working.

Again, I knew I could write. I just didn't push myself.
Then suddenly today, I felt like something, "clicked", inside me and I knew I would be able to write again and feel cohesive about it, my integrity regained. Finally, I felt I had "healed" enough and could go back to my normal mode of operations.
I want to get to work full speed on my script that I'm working on with my Producer. I also want to work on my original script. I want to work on my anthology of short stories (and that is a lot of work).

That is all a lot of focus, a lot of energy, and requires perserverance. It does me little good if I were to have started, then ended up stopping again for a period of time, probably counted in days. I knew that I needed to heal, to gather my energies, to get up to full speed again so that I could get back into the trenches and get to work; and not stop the work once I started again.

I look at it like a downhill skier.

Even if you're tired, or exhausted, you can start down from the top of the hill. But whether your run will be quality, whether you will be able to make it to the bottom or not, whether you will travel safely, is really the question. It's better to get rested, then be ready to do the run, and go for it, all the way down, and in every way. You're speed and style will be far better in the end, and you will make it to the bottom safely, ready to immediately go back to the top and start all over again.

When writing a novel, a screenplay, or any large piece of work, that's exactly what you need: to fly over the pages, producing quality, and then start again at the beginning and do it over and over until it's perfect.

And I'm getting there....

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