I have accepted that no good work from my hands arrives without first a duel with Dread. If I accept the challenge, our fistfights are usually brief, and I always win. But, damn, Dread can hang in there. Persistent as all hell and a shifty one, too – sized like a bug some days and like a mountain on others. Even these words, all 373 of them, did not find their dancing partners without Dread and I first circling each other for a bit. He stuck around for the better part of the weekend – I’ll give that prick his due there – but when I finally squared up after completing some other activity that didn’t interest him, and sat down to do some writing Sunday night, he’d grown tired. Or gave up for the evening. Maybe it was the simple act of sitting down, because, tap tap tap, all these little words started to appear on the screen. I’m in the clear for the time being, but we will meet again.
I could write books on Dread, fill volumes with first-hand accounts of being in a perpetual state of creative resistance. I’ve grown accustomed to Dread’s presence but not wise enough yet to silence him for good. Even work I find valuable, even vital – a journalistic endeavor, songwriting, playing a gig, exercising – does not take shape without that old familiar shockwave of nausea, a tonic in the stomach comprised of adrenaline and fear that triggers some neurons in the brain that tell me I suck. This is usually when Dread chimes in with his friend-voice, suggesting I clean, eat, walk the dog, or … reading!… hey, you love to read, right?
Dread’s cruelty is that he’s grown more deceptive with age: he’s much louder than he’s ever been – “Go back to your comfortable life and shut the hell up!” – yet the lie has never been thinner. It’s so paper-thin and delicate that to face it for a moment is to reduce it to nothing, to ashes. That is the master deception – to heed that shitty advice but to never seek its source. Because, when I trace it, it always leads back to that meek and familiar character with a big mouth and a very, very fragile jaw.