Years ago, 12 years ago in fact, I was trying to write a play and for the first time in my life, the words just stopped coming. Around that time, I was, as they say, churning them out for Alberta Theatre Projects and Lunchbox Theatre and other companies. I had never lost my stride before, so what was this all about? Did I suddenly have writer’s block? I didn’t really believe in writer’s block, so how could I have something I didn’t believe in?
I was married at the time and my wife, Carrie, was a part of a movement – in my mind a hippy and somewhat suspect movement – loosely referred to as “the gathering.” At this particular point in time, there was a gathering planned somewhere in the tall grasses and in the shade of the mountains west of Calgary. Off she went, and I was left at home to look after our daughter Hanna and of course to finish my play.
It should have been easy, but for the fact that I was experiencing this thing they call writer’s block. It was all new to me. I had always been a prolific writer. But I was certainly going through something.
On one of the nights that weekend, Hanna was invited to a sleep over at a friend’s house, and so with her thus dispatched and safe for the night, I betook myself to a local watering hole.
Therein, safely seated atop my favourite bar stool, I began a casual conversation with one of the waitresses. Given that it was weighing on my mind, I could hardly keep from informing her that I was suffering (experiencing initially, but by now suffering) from the accursed and by now not imaginary writer’s block.
As luck would have it, the waitress was studying new-age voo doo at one our local colleges. She decided to look after me. Who knows, I may have accounted as a credit towards her degree. She asked me my sign. I told her it was Libra. She rolled her eyes and looked at me like I was the simplest creature on earth not to know such things, and said ”Of course you’re suffering from writer’s block. Duhhhh! Venus is in retrograde and Uranus is around your ears and your past life animals are restless and probably just a little bit hungry. Silly.”
I sipped on my beer and contemplated the enormous significance of this mumbo jumbo but I got nowhere. Finally, asked the supplicant of the master, “What can I do about this?” Again, she looked at me as if I was perhaps the most ignorant and certainly unenlightened dork on the planet, and as if she was prescribing “two aspirins and call me in the morning” told me, “Just get a hunk of lapis. And you’ll be OK.”
“Sorry?” I asked
“Lapis lazuli. It’s a rock. A blue rock. Get a hunk of it and tether it to your personage and you will be ok.”
Or words to that effect. Which I quickly forgot, as I had a couple of beers and drove this ridiculous conversation from my mind.
A few unproductive days later, Carrie came home from her time in the wilderness. After we had burned her clothes and deloused her, she told me that she had a gift for me. At the conclusions of such gatherings it was customary for the participants to set gifts out on a blanket. Everyone there could choose from the array of offerings the one thing that spoke to them the loudest.
She said, “I saw this, and thought you would like it.” And she gave me a little piece of blue stone. Lapis lazuli. It was one of those moments when the hairs on the back of my neck stood up on end, causing me to question the entire activity out there in the deep woods that I had been so quick to dismiss. And indeed my activity in this universe and my place in it.
And so I finished the play. It was called Closer and Closer Apart and it has had a wonderful life for a little one act play. Do I think I could have finished it without the little hunk of lapis? Good question. For which I have no answer.
The reason I write this, years later in that I’ve had another little bout of writer’s block lately. Only now it’s not such a big deal, because I have the cure, and have now started carrying it with me everywhere I go.
Here’s a photo of it . . . .
Thanks for reading!