Blake Butler on Influence

by on Jun.27, 2011

[As part of Influence Week, I asked Blake Butler, author of There Is No Year and impressario of HTML Giant, what was influencing him, and this is how he replied:]

I don’t think I feel influenced anymore. This is because I don’t feel creative. I think I’ve felt this way for all of this year so far and maybe the last 3-6 months of the year before this one. I don’t really know what is happening now. I think I used to feel really excited every day just by waking up and walking around without thinking of what I was doing, in the idea that my body was being piloted for me by a part of me that I could not or should not catalog. This is the same way I approach god, though I have never felt writing was godly. I think this mode of operation seemed centered entirely around being a conduit of something. Or a human filter. In that way I would be a tissue that what had come into me at whatever time would be as interpreted by my body and some amount of logic, like food coming in and being taken for what is needed and passed as shit. I think now I think the writing is the shit, whereas before maybe I felt it was something higher, or at least more eternal. Shit is not eternal. It degrades really fast and leaves almost no imprint on where it has been beyond the immediacy of the stink of it and the look of it if it is seen, and sometimes in exact locations a kind of summation gesture that the shit as a sum of the product of many filters begins to put onto the surface there, like latrines. So if I read a book even if I didn’t love it or even really remember it after, it would be in me, particularly maybe with a kind of half life where the life span extends the more you feel influenced in the moment of it; this is true of both books, food, people, places, significant emotions, websites, whatever else. It all operates among that flesh and in becoming language is altered by the flesh into whatever kind of rhizome system the body uses to make a thought a thing like a sentence or some other formation of words. That alone for me was enough of a place, and a kind of anchor as a person, to get me addicted to the feeling long enough that when I couldn’t sit down and get it out I felt worse than constipated, like spiritually stuffed with garbage. Writing was the only way to free me, and yet now maybe I am beginning to feel I was actually writing myself not into freedom but into a hole.

I honestly don’t know anymore. I don’t know what I am doing. That kind of aura-torpor state I would walk around in and come to the machine with everyday for all that time seems to have changed drastically somehow in the past year. I read things and eat things and see things and they just seem to either pass through me or not come in at all. Not because I am dense but because I am either too empty or too full. Probably too empty. The reaction system of my processor has started eating itself or something instead of being a trace of glory in having a file on a computer, activated even in a way like something different than who I am. This kind of feeling has come before and is surely common. It would appear often when I was between things I’d been working on and looking for some new space to spread into. But each time it returns the eating gets worse. It is more desperate and gruesome feeling. I don’t know how to get back to the machine sometimes, even when I am sitting right in front of it. I don’t know if this is a technological influence then, like coming to sit here at this box that is basically an extension of my body, a symbiotic twin. It watches me masturbate and gives me what to masturbate to. It holds my words for me and lets others send in words. When I go away from it and try to read again or see things that have before been influences it is always somewhere in the back there lurking and eating up part of the aura. A few times a week I think something like “I should rewatch Solaris, so I can feel that” but then I end up sitting in my black leather chair kind of staring at the wall or looking at websites or phone screens and my hands are kind of flat. I don’t know if I hear anything anymore, people or music really. When the words come out now there is always the back cursor of something else behind them. The sentences are kind of tangled and feel not even not-mine as they were but laced with something like neon wire. It doesn’t fill me up. Even as I turn back and see I’ve written something that I can’t remember writing and yet that feels like the best thing I’ve seen come out of me, it feels like falling through a hole rather than becoming the hole. What kind of influence is this now, when the image and the sound and the words are all more like a crust than a food, and the words aren’t shit as much as they are the process of shitting. I don’t know. I don’t see how it continues. I don’t know how to get back to feeling like no one. I’m not asking for help because there is no one to ask.

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