Saturday, November 7, 2015

Writer's block, trailblazing, and not keeping up with the Kardashians

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you've been paying attention, you may have noticed that I've gone a bit AWOL lately. No, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, as my work colleagues, who are probably enjoying their Jeremy-free weekend, well know. I've just been hit by the worst writer's block I've had since I started writing for fun and not just for work in the middle of 2008.

At first, I was reluctant to call it writer's block. After all, I've been operating at full writing capacity at work, churning out copy on a daily basis. But that's just it: "Copy" says it all. It's functional, impersonal, and non-personal - all about people and things that have nothing to do with me. It's the more introspective and confessional stuff that's been stumping me.

But why? Did I actually have writer's block, or was I just too worn out after work to string words together in any meaningful way? Or was it simply a lack of inspiration? Were the words always there, just waiting for a trigger, a new tale to tell.

Right now, it hardly matters because for the moment, the writer's block - or whatever - has passed. The floodgates have temporarily opened, and all it took was the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote above. Who said Men's Health isn't good for anything...well, besides those hot Liam Hemsworth photos in the UK December edition?

Getting back to Ralph, his words made me consider  my own life...and life in general. Was he onto the true meaning of life - or rather, the purpose of it?

One of the things I love most about the quote is the distinction between a path and a trail. I'd never thought of it before, but paths are typically shallow, almost lightweight. They're easily blown away. Trails, on the other hand, are deep, closer to permanent. They have a certain indelible gravitas, from the Cherokee Trail of Tears to k.d. lang's "Trail of Broken Hearts."


In my own life, I've certainly ventured where there is no path, particularly during the past decade, minus this last year in Sydney. But am I trailblazing? Do I inspire others to follow me - not in the Instagram/Twitter sense, in a way that actually matters,

One can inspire in a number of ways. Of course, there's the artistic sense and the motivational one, but you can also inspire others to face demons or difficulties by being open about yours. You can inspire people to fight racism, homophobia, sexism and other forms of discrimination through words and deeds. You can inspire someone to want to be a better person, which some call the true meaning of love.

Inspiring doesn't have to be done on a large scale. The best compliments I've received in my life have been the ones from people who tell me that my words have touched them in some way. That makes the labor of love that is writing for minimal financial compensation so worth it and, in many ways, more valuable to me than the writing that pays the bills.

Maybe that's why I've felt so off these past few weeks. Writing for me is like therapy, as much as running is. I took a detour from my trail and got a little bit lost. It's good to be back.

***

One of the places I wandered into during my detour was Rebel Wilson's head. I can't stop thinking about a comment she made this week during an interview with Australian radio hosts Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O. She said that MTV asked her to present an award at the VMAs this year with Kendall and.Kylie Jenner, but she turned them down because, "Their careers aren't based on talent."

She said a lot of other really uncomplimentary stuff, but you've heard it all before. Hell, you've likely thought it all before. Although Rebel didn't break any ground or blaze any new trails with her comments, I was kind of surprised that she went there.

I have my issues with the Kardashians, and before I took my current job, I never felt the need to keep up with them. To date, I've watched only one episode of their show. That particular one, which I saw on Bali TV three years ago, revolved around Kim vs. Rob, a familial dynamic that overlaps my own brother-sister experience. As semi-compelling as Kim vs. Rob was, I never felt the need to tune in again.

My issues with the Kardashians aren't just about the Kardashians, though. I actually have issues with all reality-TV stars. Their wanton pursuit of fame feeds into the idea that you're worthless if you aren't famous, They're a symbol of our selfie society where your value is determined by Facebook "likes" and  Twitter and Instagram "followers."

But the Kardashians have become such an easy target that we often forget that the youngest ones, Kendall and Kylie, are 20 and 18, respectively. We judge these young girls the way we judge grown ass people. Do you know anyone their age who has grasped the meaning of life, or its purpose?

How many 20 year olds do we know who even have careers? Or discernible talent? What were we all doing at 18 or 20? Not everyone can be a legitimate child performer, or start out as Stevie Wonder...or Lorde.

Furthermore, MTV has actually been celebrating the talent-free for decades now, via the VMAs, via the network's own reality shows, and via music videos (back when MTV played them). Some might even dump Rebel into the talent-free box. Where are her Oscar-caliber performances? At least there's social commentary in Amy Schumer's schtick...and she has an Emmy.

But talent is in the eye of the beholder. And the Kardashians are famous because of talent. It takes a certain level of talent to become famous for doing nothing. No, the Kardashians and the Jenners (including, at this point, Caitlyn) will never give Julianne Moore or Cate Blanchett a run for their credibility, but neither will Rebel.

And let's not kid ourselves: The VMAs aren't about talent anyway. They're about self-congratulation, self-promotion and looking good. So if the Kardashians don't belong there, they don't belong anywhere.
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