I’ve had a bit of writer’s block lately. No reason that I can find. Mostly the subject material has escaped me. Then I realized that in itself was a subject worthy of print. I started this blog a few months ago with the hope that it would simply inspire me to write and explore my own mind and understanding. It has done just that. I’m not hoping to get anything on this blog published at any point, ever. This isn’t the subject material that I’d really enjoy writing an entire novel about. I don’t know how I’d make it last that long. But the subject of “writers block” made me curious. Can I approach it the same way I approach any other type of “block” in my life? Why is writer’s block seen as so much more impossible to overcome than say a mechanic’s block, or a architect’s block? We don’t ever hear of bus driver’s block. Is there a potter’s block? More importantly (and pertinent to this blog) is home brewer’s block.
Sometimes, you’ll finish brewing a batch, pitch the yeast, wake up the next morning and……..nothing. No bubbles in the airlock. You wait another day. No activity. No fermentation. All that time/energy/money you spent looks like it’s circling the toilet right about now. Shitty. You’ve encountered what Pirsig would refer to as a “value trap”. If you don’t approach this trap in the correct way, you just made 5 gallons of terrible drain cleaner. So we need to look at the causes of “stuck fermentation.”
First, your wort sucks. The environment that the yeast is in is inhospitable. You may have added too many adjuncts or sugar (rice syrup comes to mind here – people use that to make American Light Lagers. piss water. don’t waste your time). So the yeast doesn’t have enough nutrients to survive. You’ll need to feed the yeast if this is the case. Add some sterile wort to the mix. This will give it a kick in the right direction, and dilute all those adjuncts you’ve added.
In life, this happens frequently. We have a particular goal in mind, but in getting there, we accumulate so much “baggage” and attachments that we end up too weighed down to reach that goal. In writing, we get too many ideas about what the end result should be. Or we get to reading another author and think “I’ll add that in”. Or we get caught up in another task or project. Or we become obsessive compulsive about using the thesaurus for every third word we use. If you want to write, you need to write. Just focus, and do it. No distractions. Set aside a time to write if you need to and stick to it.
This doesn’t apply to writing only. Any goal you have in life, it’s easy to get bogged down by all the non-nutritious crap you’ve added to your life. You want to have a great, prosperous life, filled with joy and ease. But what do you do instead? You leave the TV running. You let your friends drain you emotionally day after day. You eat shit for lunch and dinner (because chances are, you aren’t eating breakfast). Your home is cluttered. Your finances are a mess. In short, you’ve made a bad environment for yourself. It’s at this point where you need to get rid of all the adjuncts in your life that are getting in the way of you living your truth. You can’t even begin to see your truth, let alone live it, if your life has become a cornucopia of poisons. Get rid of them. Have a garage sale. Quit smoking. Take your phone off the hook for awhile. Find some alone time. Take up insight meditation. Unplug and minimize. Then you can start to take a look at who you are, without all the excess flotsam and jetsam that have clogged the river of you.
Sometimes, your yeast sucks. For whatever reason, it’s become apathetic about making beer in your fermenter. Maybe it’s old. Maybe the temperature wasnt’ right. Maybe it just doesn’t like what you’ve given it to eat. Maybe it was damaged in transportation. There’s a lot of reasons. But what you should do here is feed it. Yeast nutrients work well, and this is an easy fix. This will give your yeast life, and remind it that it’s purpose is to make beer.
In life it’s difficult; no, damn near impossible to see what the problem with ourselves is. Hell, all of our family and friends will clue us in, but we just don’t see it. We don’t want to see it. We love being perfect just as we are. Our misery has become our comfort blanket. Because sometimes, we become walking zombies. You wake up. Get dressed. Commute to work. Work. Lunch. More work. Commute home. Dinner. Conan. Bed. Rinse Lather Repeat. Enter apathy, followed shortly by indifference. Next comes depression. And it doesn’t usually hit you at once. It’s gradual. It’s also enveloping. So much so that you don’t see that it’s happened until way too late. So then we take pills to make us not feel the depression. But it’s still there. The pills just cover it up. In fact they feed the lethargy. It’s like putting a towel around your fermenter and thinking that will solve your stuck fermentation. Buzzz. Wrong answer.
What do you need to do? I already told you. It’s an easy fix. You need a soul nutrient. Something that will make you feel alive again. Try Yoga, home brewing, archery, karaoke, whatever. Anything that feeds your soul, and not the routine that got you into this mess. The problem with most of us is that once we start down the path of monotony or depression we just keep feeding it and feeding it. We either become apathetic about the situation, or we deny it, or more commonly we add fuel to the fire. What you need to do is see the fire for what it is. It is a destructive force that will decimate who you are physically and mentally. You must extinguish this fire by jumping in the lake. You can’t stop drop and roll depression. You can’t end the flatness with subtlety. Drastic measures are in order. But they are easy. It takes only a new hobby. A new friend. An old lover. Go see a show. Anything. But you must act fast. Your soul has a short window of availability for you to reignite the process. Too long, and you’ll have been your own vampire. Drained yourself of all signs of energy, life, essence. You won’t be able to see yourself in the mirror anymore. You’ll only see a package. A package that you used to be able to open to see something extraordinary inside. Now, only a package.
There are other ways to get stuck. I won’t list them all. You’ll need to figure them out. I’m still trying to figure this all out myself. I get stuck often. The biggest problem is realizing that you are stuck. That life isn’t supposed to be this way. It’s hard, but it’s the first step, and you’ve gotta do it. You have to be honest with yourself. Too often our mind and ego have told us how great we are and how everything is stupendous and the future looks bright and bla bla bla bla…. so why is it that something doesn’t feel right? If everything is going according to plan, why is that panic light flashing in the background?
It’s because we’ve settled. Rather than explore the world of home brewing, we’ve decided to settle on whoever sponsers the Super Bowl this year. It’s easy. That’ll be the go-to favorite. Always. Sure, everytime you go to the store and buy a six-pack, in the back of your mind you’re thinking “hmmm… I wonder what that Amber Lager tastes like….” but you decide not to risk it. What if you didn’t like it? Then you’d be disappointed. And we can’t have that. Let’s just grab our usual and our expectations will be met. I say no more. I say from now on, listen to that voice in your head. Grab the Amber Lager. See the Indie Documentary you read about in the weekly. Bike to work tomorrow. That voice that tells you to do these things? That’s you. The voice of your soul crying out for nourishment. You’ve just been locked up in the basement by your ego and your mind. They are formidable advisaries. But you must stand up to them.
Embrace that which feeds your soul. I guarantee you’ll find disappointment. You’ll start to write a blog and have some really great ideas, and then bam. You’ll just stare at your screen and not know what to write. You’ll brew a batch of beer and it will taste like piss. You’ll ask out that clerk at the grocery store, and you’ll get turned down. Big deal. It was your result-oriented/future-mindset that got you into that mode of depression and stuckness in the first place. Life isn’t a result. Life is getting the result, getting to your destination, not arriving at it. Because when you arrive, then what? If you can find that which feeds your soul, and enjoy that process for what it is, and the joy it brings you, you’ll never have to worry about stuck fermentation for too long.
So for now, this blog is my nutrient. It’s what is feeding my writer’s soul, and freeing my writer’s block. I’m not concerned with the end result, but the process of writing itself. If I get too caught up in the goal, I’ll get stuck and miss out on the entire process. Cheers.