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Upside of Distraction –

by on February 10, 2013

I didn’t set up an Internet connection. I didn’t have a TV or an iPhone. For hundreds of miles in every direction, none of the movie theaters were playing movies I wanted to see. There were dangerous roads, there was dangerous weather. I spent my days scribbling longhand, as snow piled up against my house and made high branches slap against my windows. I was embowered in the graces of Turgenev’s age.

When I socialized, it was often with poets, who confirmed by their very existence that I had landed in a better, vanished time. Even their physical ailments were of the 19th century. One day, in the depths of winter, I came upon one of them picking his way across the snow and ice on crutches, pausing to drag on his cigarette.“What happened to you?” I asked.

“I have gout,” he said, his tone hail-fellow-well-met. “It still happens, apparently.”

The disaster unfolded slowly. The professors and students were diplomatic, but a pall of boredom fell over the seminar table when my work was under discussion. I could see everyone struggling to care. And then, trying feverishly to write something that would engage people, I got worse. First my writing became overthought, and then it went rank with the odor of desperation. It got to the point that every chapter, short story, every essay was trash.

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