I spent an hour tonight in Barnes & Noble looking at books. I went in thinking I would by a new book since I finished the one I was reading today, and yet I left empty-handed. It wasn’t that I couldn’t find something that interested me; there were a plethora of titles that I would have loved to dive into. I just couldn’t seem to find it in me to pay full-price for a book. Sure, there were plenty of books at 20% and 30% off the cover price – including the new Nick Hornby title which I have been wanting to read. Yet I still did not make a purchase.

Instead I scoffed at the prices: Nick Hornby at 20% off the cover price of $24.95, why that is still $20 plus tax … and I can get it on Amazon for even less than that. But I don’t usually order books for myself from Amazon. I am more of an instant gratification type when it comes to book buying. Has working in a branch of publishing where I have access to thousands of titles for free – if I properly work the system – really jaded me that much? I used to think that books were the one thing for which I would always pay full-price. I told myself that they were the one area where I would always support the independent mom & pop place over a chain regardless of cost. But here I found myself in a bookstore, for the explicit purpose of acquiring a new book, unable to act on my impulse.

Is it because I was in a Barnes & Noble and my subconscious was telling me to do what I believe in and shop local? I don’t think so. I think that I have truly come to a point in my life where the idea of paying the list price for a book seems preposterous; especially when I can go to Amazon or The Strand and get the same title for a fraction of the price. This is a sad day. I feel like I have lost some part of myself that I may never get back.

While thumbing through titles in B&N I came across a statement that said something to the effect that living in New York can suck the will to write out of an author. This started me thinking about my own writing and how living in the city has changed my voice. My writer’s block started long before I moved to NYC. I can pinpoint when it happened nearly to the date, but would rather not go into that now. Let’s just say it was years ago and due to circumstances beyond my control.

I have thought about reconnecting with my inner author for sometime now, and envisioned day-to-day life in the city as the perfect means to achieving that goal. What could be better material than the wacky happenings of more than seven million people going about their life activities? After two-and-a-half years, though, I still have not written anything worthwhile.

I don’t think my inability to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) results from lack of desire. I started two blogs with great intentions of keeping them up-to-date with anecdotes. I journal sporadically, and intend to write each night before I go to bed or each morning when I wake up. I read books like The Artists Way for inspiration. Still I am unable to meaningfully compose stories of sentences made of words born of letters.

So what is it that is preventing me from doing an activity that I love? Could it be true that this city sucks the writer out of you?

After stumbling upon that claim this evening I started thinking about it, and concluded that it could be true. Perhaps NYC is so stimulating that one finds himself or herself home at night lacking the energy to prepare dinner let alone write. Not to mention the fact that most of us spend all day in front of a computer working, and if not at the computer, then in meetings making notes – or doodling – in note pads. In this capacity one is always communicating with written language in some way; it is simply not the way a writer would prefer. This meaningless composition serves no creative outlet. Instead it takes precious words and turns them into a necessity of the work environment.

I read a story once that was based on the idea that each of us is given a finite number of words to speak in a day. People could choose to use their words in aimless chatter or meaningful conversation, but once they had spoken their share silence ensued. At the center of this tale was a couple who were very much in love. They had committed to each other despite the fact that they were geographically separated. Each day they tried as hard as they could to speak as little as possible so that they could share their lives with each other through nightly phone calls; remaining close despite the miles between them. Some evenings though one of them would find that they had ran out of words, and would let the other talk. Other times they both would reach their maximum usage. It was at these moments that the couple would listen to each other breathe – content in their connection despite the lack of spoken language.

I can’t help but wonder if something similar to this happens to those who want to be writers yet find themselves working mundane jobs to get by. Maybe we spend all day using our words for meaningless communication that by the time we want to write something for a purpose other than work we are left without the vocabulary to say it. It is thoughts like these that both depress me, and help me excuse my failure co compose.

With that said, I have one anecdote to share before I collapse into a much needed slumber.

After I left the bookstore I made my way to the train that would whisk me home to Spanish Harlem. Knowing I had a half-hour ride with no reading material I opted to listen to the soundtrack of my life and play Tetris (ah the joys of technical gadgetry. Shortly after I settled into my seat, minding my own business like the good New Yorker I am, a man sat down next to me. I did not turn my head, but merely got an impression of him out of the corner of my eye. I am usually not skittish when it comes to weirdoes on the subway. I leave them alone, and they tend to leave me alone. For reasons I cannot fathom, this man set me on edge. Still having only the impression I was able to make from my peripheral vision I concluded that he was stranger than most. His outfit appeared to be a traditional African long shirt and slacks, and yet I knew that it wasn’t quite right. Had it been, I would have been at ease.

My suspicions were supported when he shook his change cup in my direction. Had he been merely a pan handler, he would not have taken the seat right next to me. Next he started yelling about the “F’in War” and how she had to go die in it. Then he rose to stand in the middle of the car and yell at us all about the men and women fighting on the front lines. Now I was able to get a good look at him. He was wearing layers of colorful clothing, a paper crown, and a golf ball necklace. His outfit coupled with his nonsensical yelling at people about war – sometimes in their face – could have meant that he was a harmless crazy. Yet there was an underlying anger to all his rants that I could not come to terms with, and set me on edge. Perhaps it was this paired with the fact that most of the time he was sitting next to me he was mumbling comments apparently directed at me … I was grateful that he did not try to follow me off the train.

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