I’m very pleased to reveal my new website. I welcome you all here! It’s a tidy place. As you enter, you’ll find the worlds I’ve created with nothing but words. Just those flimsy little markings we use to articulate the state of things. And, my friends, the state of things for me at this crucial moment is that I am suffering from the condition dreaded by all those who corral those flimsy little markings: writer’s block.
Before I talk about that, let me tell you a story about a little girl who got lost, not in the woods, but in her own neighbourhood, which was close to the woods. That little girl is me. Not until a few years ago, did I realize I used to (and still occasionally) suffer from Temporary Topographical Amnesia, a vascular deficit in the right hemispheric structures for topographic recognition. Loss of visuo-spatial memories, visual object agnosia. Motor automatism.
Come with me as my six-year-old self walks to school…
I was a dreamy child. My mind often roamed separately from my body and I sometimes got lost. Here I am enroute, clutching my Charlie Brown lunchkit. The school is two blocks away. In this first moment it’s a regular day: all the familiar houses are in their familiar places. The street is the same street it always is and I know with one turn to the right it leads to my school. But in the next moment I’m mercilessly marooned, abandoned by my own memory. The landscape is stripped of any meaning. I’m a cipher walking in a generic place on a characterless plane. I’m experiencing a complete failure to recognize and navigate landmarks in previously familiar terrain: topographical amnesia.
I know I am me, but I don’t know where I am, where I came from, or where I’m going. I know a road is a road in a vague sense, but I don’t know what particular road I’m on: it could be anywhere. I feel profoundly abandoned, a not-Alice stuck in a land of stark objectivity. Not even a dose from a magic “Drink Me” bottle can help me find my way.
Unmeasurable moments later, as fast as it had vanished, the ordinary—meaningful—landscape reappears. I know I’m on my street in my neighbourhood. Happy to reinhabit the known world, I dawdle on to school, swinging my Charlie Brown lunch kit. The first experience of this phenomenon has never left me. What a thin veneer there is between the inner and outer world, and when it is torn away to reveal an unbeworded undersurface, how terrifying and disorienting it can be: a mere presentation of the material, devoid of specificity.
Writer’s block feels a bit like this. Words seem ungraspable blanks. I am able to write this piece because it is not fiction and I had prior notes. What fails me in this present condition is the ability to conjure a fictional scene. But, I think I have erred in seeing this as a deficit. It could instead be—after several years of writing and then releasing my first book—my body’s and mind’s strategy for renewal. Yes! For so long, I wrote inside a fictional bubble. In this new phase, my mind can reverse its scope and wander in the wide undelineated spaces.
And so, in celebration of a new website, I greet you now from a place a freedom, where I roam in the physical world, play piano, cook meals, go for walks, until the “flimsy little markings” start to call to me again.