Sunday, 30 September 2007

Broderick's Sunday Special #3: Buttons

This morning I woke up with the knowledge I'd be working in the restaurant from 10 to 5 and then gigging in Richmond at night. I shower, run the razor above the top lip and below the lower one, wax the hair, and put on jeans, a brown cowboy style shirt, and a grey jumper.

It's two hours later and I'm just stepping out for a short break to get some coffee. I buy an Americano, in a paper cup that somehow seems to leak at the bottom, sling my bag over my shoulders, and start walking back to the shop. The strap of my bag catches on something. I look down. It's caught on the pearl snap of my western-style shirt, under my jumper. I look down. Both snaps are showing prominently through my grey jumper, like oversized robot nipples. Oh, and being the closure of the breast pockets of my shirt, they're much higher than normal nipples. I hurry on, suddenly aware that the lovely old busybodies of Belsize Park have been watching me mumble irrational admonishments to myself, staring, fascinated at my chest.

What do I do? The cowboy shirt has a large coffee stain that I though I could cover up with my jumper. It's a choice between that and walking around looking like Tara Reid's boob job or the third version of the Batsuit. I suppose there's always the option of wearing just the grey jumper, in which people would see my actual nipples - which I don't mind much, only it's very cold out.


It's Saturday and I'm poring desperately over the weekend papers looking for something to write about for this weeks Sunday Special. I know writer's block can be alleviated by simply writing the first sentence on the blank page or computer screen, so I put pen to page in my journal and write the two sentences you have just read.

Perhaps I'm taking this Sunday Special thing too far. I don't have a column in a newspaper or magazine, and my readership is zero (if that). But it's a personal challenge, more than anything, a motivational, if illusory set of deadlines to up my word count, help me develop my voice, just get going. I've never written or spoken about my writer's process or the act of writing as it exists for me, so this week I've started to contemplate it. Here goes: There's an awful amount of self-censorship that stops me putting pen to page for extended periods of time. It can feel like speaking through a gag; there's a desire to speak burning in your chest, but your censor stuff its cotton batting in your mouth and you resign yourself to leaving those words unsaid. I write a lot of beginnings.

When I was a kid, though, I'd write non-stop. None of it was particularly good, of course, but there was none of this hovering with pen poised wondering if the words I'd scribbled would stand up to post-structuralist criticism. I remember reading a Toni Morrison book for the first time, and then going and writing a story just saturated in the milieu of the rural American South of the 1960s. The chutzpah of a Chinese-Canadian teenage boy attempting to authentically capture the voice of a strong black woman is staggering.

Since I've started stand-up comedy, it's gotten worse. Stand-up is a random process of divine miracles, or at least, it can seem that way when the raw-materials for new 'bits' dry up. When writing goes well, it's easy to think of yourself as a genius with an endless font of uniquely witty observations on the world. When that font dries up and you've done the same set for three weeks straight, it's easy to curse a god, whom you may or may not believe in, but whom you suddenly envision as a medieval warlock in a Death Star style spaceship, finger poised over the Creativity button.

This blog was meant to help me out of the self-censorship trap, which I think is all my sporadic writer's block is. It's meant to get rid of the random chance in my comedy writing. It's helping. But then the warlock presses the button and you end up with some fluff piece about buttons looking like nipples. I didn't change my shirt, incidentally.


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