Beyond Writer's Block. - I'm Sure Everything Will Be Back to Normal Soon.
posted 15 Sep 2020 by Krister Axel
Maybe what I feel right now is how everyone feels, but that doesn't make me feel any less alone.

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In the week before the Almeda fire came to town, I binged a bit on Netflix: Alone, The Final Table, some terrible show about tiny houses; and then, The Social Experiment. I don't know that I recommend any of these things. Netflix is a thief of motivation in the worst possible way. I find that when I am tempted to binge-watch Netflix, it is because I have something on my mind that I don't want to deal with.

Sorry for the Delay

When I decided to leverage my experience with music and language into this blog, I didn't have anything beyond a 2-year plan. After almost 3 years, the grind has caught up to me. I have always been passionate about lifting up indie music, and the idea of discovering great new music before the rest of the world does will always be exciting to me, but at the moment, I am finding it difficult to reengage. If you are waiting on a feature from CHILLFILTR, please accept my apologies for the delay. We will be able to work through everything within 2 more weeks.

Last week the fire blew through town, and I'm still reeling from it. Our sister cities of Talent and Phoenix have burned, badly, and hundreds of families are displaced. It is an utter tragedy. I can't process what happened. It feels like a bad dream, like a mistaken glitch of space-time that might yet work itself out. It is also, of course, an opportunity to be generous, and to connect with our local community - as we assess the final damage, engineer the rebuild, and begin the healing process. But right now all I feel is pain.

Last week and into the weekend, the CHILLFILTR web servers were going down for hours at a time, and on Tuesday morning, the fire, which took out our internet for the rest of the week. After that I was running: to Yreka, back to Ashland to do some work and give out some supplies, and now we are in Lakehead for a few days. Nothing is real. The skies are hazy, the streets are empty - the world just feels sad. Maybe what I feel right now is how everyone feels, but that doesn't make me feel any less alone. I am so grateful for my family right now. They keep me sane. But I have written nothing in the last week, and I can only partially blame the physical setbacks that I have had. The creative part of me has been in a state of protest. I am baffled, I am mute, I am traumatized. I have outrage fatigue. I feel defeated. What a bleak year of infinite tragedy this has turned out to be. And sadly, not over.

The Fire

I drop my furry daughter off in Talent at Barking Beauty. The appointment is for 10:45 AM. I am a few minutes late. I drive home. About 25 minutes later, the (Glendower / Almeda) fire starts. The texts start coming in.

My wife happened to be in Medford that morning, with the kids and her mother, which turned out to be an important coincidence. When Talent was being evacuated, our groomer was stuck with a bunch of dogs and no way to return them to their owners. The highway to Ashland was cut off, due to wildfire, and the only way to go was north. So if my wife had not been able to drive immediately to meet the groomer on the side of the road somewhere in Medford, because she was already in the area, we would have had no way to get our dog back from the groomer - who had been forced to evacuate from her own house. What a mess. We were lucky to be in a part of Ashland that was unaffected by the fire, and we were lucky to get our Shih Tzu back without much fuss. But for 2 days, I couldn't be with my family, because they fled north, while I went south, and we had the fire between us. Being away from them is difficult enough without the added stress of having multiple fires in close proximity of the Rogue Valley.

I can't really express how lucky I feel at this moment. But there is also a feeling that something has changed - something both fundamental and vast.

What World Is This?

It's no secret that I have struggled with depression. It was not long ago that I made my most meaningful step forward from it, and this year has challenged that 'healthy' state at seemingly every turn. Coronavirus; homeschooling; police brutality; fraudulent primaries. Wildfires. Finally, this.

Help, I'm being oppressed.

At SubmitHub, it is hard to get a feeling for the scale of the whole operation, simply as an artist. That was my first experience with SubmitHub - as an indie songwriter - and I remember being a bit overwhelmed by how impersonal it felt. It hurts to be rejected, and spending money for that privilege can be troubling. But it's important to think about the other side of it, and the sheer scale of the interaction for blogs that get many hundreds of submissions every day. It becomes basically impossible for every artist to get what they are looking for, because they want to feel special, and that kind of attention takes time. I think SubmitHub is an amazing tool if, when you submit, you are ready to take some time learning how to design campaigns, and also do some research on everyone you submit to. But if you just jump in and throw a lot of money around, you will probably be disappointed. You can't see your competitors - but they are there, always.

Many artists come into the SubmitHub experience without rational expectations, and without a clear metric for success. It is so easy to feel judged, and subsequently, defensive; it can be hard to come to the realization that there was perhaps a more effective way to proceed, and harder still to think that because of it, you deserve some blame for your own failure. These are the lessons that matter. This is how we grow.

Humans are fools for positive branding, and now we are in a place where that will no longer work. Yet, that is one of the hardest things in the world to do - to pierce an illusion. I saw this rack of popular magazines in Redding today. Every one of these covers feels oddly disconnected from reality, like the powers of media have not yet caught up with the new American dystopia. Do they not know that the West is burning?

Everything is personal now - the mask protesters, the right-wing vigilantes, the incrementalists, the violent Karens. The compromisers, the bootlickers. Grown men and women that walk right past a sign that says 'mask required' and pretend they don't see it.

How does one cope?

Almost There

Working through writer's block, in my case, also means preserving the relationships I have with clients. I still have a lot to process, but now that we are going to be in the same place for a few days, I can get some work done. Thanks for your patience, and if any of what I wrote here resonates with you, let me know on Twitter.

I'm sure everything will be back to normal soon.

About the Author


Krister Bjornson Axel

Ogdensburg, New York

Paris, France. Madison, Wisconsin. Los Angeles. Ashland, Oregon. Ottawa. I write music, I write about music, and I write code. See also: photography, prose, podcasting. I have 1 gorgeous wife, 2 amazing kids, and many interests.

Recent Awards: 2020 ND (Photo) Honorable Mention, 2020 Accenti Writing Contest Finalist