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Learning How to Go With the Flow

Billy McCall at The Tannex - Pyragraph
Opening party for my installation at The Tannex. Photo by Peri Pakroo.

I used to hear people complain about insomnia, and I never really understood the problem.

As someone who sleeps very little, the idea of not sleeping at all seemed wonderful. “How productive you must be!” I thought to myself, “I wish I could go without sleep!” Then it happened to me. One night I couldn’t fall asleep. I laid there, and laid there. I got up and tried to “be productive,” but I didn’t have the energy to do anything. I was already worn out. I was tired, like totally fucking tired, but I just couldn’t fall asleep.

This is the analogy I use when describing writer’s block. A person never knows they have writer’s block until they sit down and try to write, want to write. It’s all they want. But despite what they want, it just ain’t happening.

There are times when writer’s block can be a pretty serious and shitty thing. If you have a 10,000 word feature for a national magazine due by the end of the week, you don’t wanna catch a case of the writer’s block.

For the past few months I’ve barely done any writing, because I came up with some crazy idea to create a video sculpture of nude bodies.

Not all writer’s block is actually writer’s block. Just because you aren’t going to sleep, that doesn’t mean you have insomnia. Some times you’re not tired when you think you should be, and that’s okay, some times you’re tired when maybe you shouldn’t be.

As someone who has dealt with sporadic sleep patterns his whole life, I’ve learned to just go with it. If it’s 6 o’clock in the evening and I’m exhausted, I lay down and go to sleep. If it’s 6am, and I’m wide awake, I just keep on keeping on. I listen to my body and do what feels right.

In a similar fashion, I’ve learned I must listen to my spirit of creativity when it comes to producing art. I consider myself first and foremost to be a writer. I write zines, newsletters, novels, blog posts, news articles, etc. It’s what I was born to do. It’s what I enjoy. It’s the thing I think about doing when I’m not doing it.

But I also love painting, photography, pinball, hiking, sex, board games, bike riding, and so much more, and all of these activities are just as vital to my well-being as writing. In fact, all of these activities give me the energy and inspiration to write when it comes time to write.

For the past few months I’ve barely done any writing. Why is this? Because I came up with some crazy idea to create a video sculpture of nude bodies. The more I worked on this project, the more time and attention it demanded. Instead of resisting, I dove in head-first. I videoed as many naked people as I could, I hit up thrift stores to buy old TVs and DVD players, and taught myself how to wire up all sorts of stuff I’ve never wired before. I did a lot, and at the end of each day I had no more energy for writing.

And ya know what? That was okay.

I had a big art show, lots of people came out, it was lots of fun, and by the time it was all said and done, I wanted nothing more than to sit in front of my computer and put out a new zine.

Less clothes = More fun by Billy McCall - Pyragraph
Some images from the opening party of Less Clothes, More Fun. Photos by Billy McCall.

Some people stay incredibly focused on one activity. I think George R.R. Martin might be like that. Some people get very, very good at one thing, and that’s all they ever want to do. I think Michael Jordan was like that for a long time. How much basketball did that guy play? But we also remember his stint trying to play baseball. Most of the public probably remembers this as a failure, as he really wasn’t very successful as a baseball player, especially when compared to his basketball career. But do you think Jordan thinks of it as a failure? I highly doubt it. He was bored, he tried something new. Followed his dream.

I’d say I’m a much better writer than painter. Better at writing than taking photos. Better at writing than I am at a lot of things. But I enjoy all those other things, and if that’s what my soul is begging me to do, I go for it.

Go with the flow, people. Follow your instincts, follow your dreams. If you wake up one morning with the urge to try something totally new, go do it. In all likelyhood, it’s a small detour from your main life path, but it’s your life path. You always end up back where you’re supposed to be, so just go with it.

Come to the closing party for Billy’s video installation Less Clothes, More Fun (now with Dicks!) at The Tannex in Albuquerque, July 31, 8pm. Billy’s new band Rudest Priest will play its first gig at the party so don’t miss it. Suggested donation of $5 for the band, and your friendly neighborhood DIY, non-trust-fund-run space, The Tannex.

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