Malay Gardeners

Just spit it out already.

Put your fingers to the keyboard and spit it out. Stop the fragmentary bits of a dinner here or of drinks there or of a walk over there from ping-ponging around your scattered, screaming, short-attention span head and make some sense of it. Slow it all down. It’s your job. Do it already, and don’t get frustrated when it takes longer than it should take to do it. It’s what you’re good at; it’s what you want to do. It’s what you need to do to be better, and that’s what you want, isn’t it?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know, but back off. Look, I’m going to do it. And those disparate flashes of travel experiences painfully bouncing around my head like a slideshow of Patty and Selma’s Mexican vacation will come together into coherence in time. They need to be basted with patience and baked in details that I’m not ready to illuminate just yet. Plus I’m tired and I just don’t think I have “it” today. I have a bunch of emails to answer, and a few creative fantasy basketball trade offers to propose really quickly, and I want to catch up on what everybody else has been working on this week. It’s a busy-work day – but it’s still a productive day. Just not in that way.

I’ll get to it.

Hmm. Yeah. You said that last week, and the week before that, and the week before that. Yet here you are, again, idly watching the Malay gardeners, in their long-sleeved green shirts and conical straw hats, slowly picking through the freshly laid grass on the newly flattened lawn of your still-under-construction condominium complex, wasting time, again. You’re willfully wilting under the painful weight of process, again, instead of shouldering it. You remember what it’s like to endure it and burn through it and confidently, competently string those fragments together into sentences and paragraphs that burst like a bag of microwave popcorn? You’ve done it hundreds of times before, and it’s a good feeling, yeah? And what’s this feel like?

It feels like… well, fine, it feels like shit. Everybody goes through it, though. You’re not a real writer if you don’t. It’s like Mike Patton says in Faith No More’s “Caffeine”: “Relax. It’s just a phase. You’ll grow out of it.” When you start running into walls, and feeling like you have nothing to say and that, when you do, no matter how you release it it still reads and feels like you still don’t have anything to say, well, that just means you’re ready to move into a different space again. You’re stuck in limbo between what you thought you were doing well and now think is shit, and that heady space of unknown progression that comes unannounced with infrequent regularity. I know the arrow is pointing in a different direction, but I can’t quite make out the path yet.  So lay off and stop being so hard on me; I said I’ll get to it.

Here’s what I think: I think you should stop thinking so hard. All of these things, yeah, they make sense — the fantasy basketball shit doesn’t make sense, actually, enough already — but you don’t stop moving your arms and kicking your feet when you’re in the middle of a lake and need to swim to shore. Pain comes with the territory; you know that. Pain and focused thought and failure. Lots of failure, in fact, if you’re doing it right. You have to remember that failure is fine, and you have to learn to embrace the pain, because without the failure and the pain, you won’t experience the success.

It is what it is, my friend, and since we’re quoting obscure lyrics from old songs by aging bands you still listen to for whatever reason, consider the chorus of Bad Religion’s “New Leaf”: “You’ve gotta turn over a new leaf, ’cause that old one’s turning on you. We’ve gotta turn over a new leaf, ‘cuz if the future’s only hoped for we are doomed.”

I don’t think Greg had this in mind when he wrote that, but it works well enough, yeah?

Yeah.

So… let’s do it then. For chrissakes just spit it out already.

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Brian Spencer

Brian Spencer is a Singapore-based freelance writer. He has written for BBC Travel, CNN Travel, DestinAsian, Fodor's Travel, Lonely Planet, and Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia, among other publications.