Sunday afternoons are often spent writing my upcoming blog. Sometimes, if all is flowing smoothly, I get two or three blogs out and scheduled for their respective Wednesdays.
Today, however, for the first time since I began this blog a year ago, I can’t think of a thing to post. My big resolution — no, I’m calling them determinations or some such — to blog faithfully each Wednesday is crashing ingloriously at my feet. My brain feels useless; I get ideas, then discard them almost immediately for one reason or another. Can’t find a deleted scene I want to share. Can’t seem to think of anything remotely resembling cultural differences. Can’t think of what to write.
Is this what people call writer’s block?
I’ve read about writer’s block, but I’ve never actually felt that I suffered from it. Give me a blank piece of paper and I’ll fill it every time. No problem. So, I thought perhaps I’d try that today.
Just for kicks.
How am I doing so far?
It’s like the early days of my journaling life; I sometimes just wrote, “so, I must keep the pen moving for twenty minutes, that seems like a really long time, and I’m not sure I like that. Feels a bit pushy, annoying really. I am feeling annoyed. I wonder who I’m mad at about it….” And I was off.
This is what I’m hoping will kick in.
Any time now.
Anything yet? No. Nothing.
I’ll keep going.
We’ve been having a bit of a cold snap up here in the Northeast Kingdom. I know most of the country is in the grips of it. I was talking to Assem, one of my Kazakh colleagues, this morning and she mentioned she’d heard of our cold snap. Folks there were worried for us, she said.
“Not to worry.” I told her. “It’s nothing like Kazakhstan. People in America don’t know what cold really is.” And she laughed.
I’m terribly amusing to the Kazakhs. I like that about them. I make them laugh.
They think I’m funny.
A lot of people think I’m funny, actually. I hear that a lot and I’m always surprised. Funny? Me? I don’t remember saying anything funny. And I don’t think of myself as a comedienne.
I can’t tell a real joke, for example, to save my life.
The best joke I ever told (the only joke I ever told where I didn’t mess up the punch line) was the one about the prison inmate:
He was new in the prison and he noticed that at lights out, he’d hear, one at a time, different inmates holler out a number, seemingly at random.
“Seventeen,” one would call from the cell across the way.
And the other inmates would laugh.
“Forty-two,” shouted another. And it too was met with chuckles.
And so it went until the wee hours and the guys finally drifted off to sleep.
He asked his cohorts about it at breakfast the next morning.
“Ah. Well. Them’s jokes.” One guy explained. “Yeah. We’ve got them all catalogued. That way, we don’t need to spend all that time with so many words.”
“Yeah,” said the guy next to him. “Warden’s real strict about quiet after lights out.”
And they told the new guy some of their jokes.
So, the next night, he was eager to try his hand.
“Forty-two,” he called out, remembering the hearty laughter he’d heard the night before.
But all he heard was silence. Deafening silence.
Not a single chuckle in the entire prison.
So, the next morning, as he’s sitting at breakfast, he asked about it. “What happened? How come I didn’t get a laugh?”
“Well, your timing was off.”
And that’s my 500 words. My blog for Wednesday, January 8, 2014.
See? Writer’s block is just a state of mind, a boundary between being a writer or being an aspiring writer.
And crossing boundaries is one of my favorite topics.
Next week, Shirley Hershey Showalter, the author of the recently published memoir Blush, will be here to talk about her journey crossing from one subculture to another in
A Little Fish in a Mennonite Sea
Here’s a brief excerpt:
Some people swim contentedly in the sea they were born into. Some leap like salmon and plunge upstream or even jump into a different pond. And some keep following their own stream to the place where it joins the ocean.
I hope you’ll join us.
In the meantime, have you faced writer’s block? If so, how have you faced it?
And, if you don’t like that question, did you at least like my joke?
It could be my timing.
I can relate to your “block” problem, but do view it as temporary. Your subconscious will probably kick in as you dream, and you’ll wake up with a fresh idea tomorrow. Or take a trip! Right now two Floridians are sitting for 9 hours (interrupted travel is the euphemism used) in the Salt Lake City airport en-route to Spokane. It’s snowing and we’re enjoying a bowl of chili, so what’s not to like!
I definitely look forward to Shirley’s conversation A Little Fish in a Mennonite Sea. I have taken a flying leap and become A Mennonite Fish in the Open Water. But, unlike Shirley, I haven’t published a book–yet!
Janet, I enjoy your candor and your travel commentary. Thank you!
I’m so glad to find you here. I missed you this morning; i was getting used to our Wednesday morning chats. They got a bit off schedule with holidays followed by illness, but I’m hoping I’m back to “normal.” I’m glad you liked my little writers block ditty. I have to say its never been something I felt I suffered from. Just that Sunday I really started from a blank slate. My writing problem is generally individual TMI, like now I suppose. Good luck, btw, with your Gutsy Living story. Come back and add a link to it if you’d like. See you next week.
Thank you for the kind offer to promote my gutsy story, Janet: Here is the link it: http://soniamarsh.com/2013/12/rising-above-the-pettiness-to-focus-on-the-positive-by-marian-beaman.html
I believe it is also possible to vote on that page, but if not, here is the direct link: http://soniamarsh.com/2014/01/vote-for-your-favorite-december-2013-my-gutsy-story.html
Thanks again, Janet.
Marian, I’m happy to oblige. Your great story of travel and teaching in the Ukraine, brought back many memories for me of our time in Kazakhstan.
Janet, Some people believe that there is no such thing as a “writer’s block” , but I certainly can relate to those moments when I feel stuck as you have so aptly described here. I usually either walk away and do something else for a bit or I do some free writing in a journal. I love your sense of humor and your ability to turn a frustrating situation into an entertaining read. Nice job writing your way out of your writer’s block or whatever else it’s called. Looking forward to Shirley’s guest post.
Hi Kathy. Thanks so much for stopping by. I agree. Once I learned to leave my inner editor behind, my inner writer bloomed. I often have trouble shutting her up. See you Wednesday.
For me, blog posts are a different beast all together. Perhaps I take the idea of them “being published” far too seriously. In fact, I know I do yet blog posts are just about the only time that I even think of the term, writer’s block.
Think it was about mid-year last year that I decided to look at my blog post writing process. It has helped a lot. Of course, not all posts are what I want them to be but a fellow blogger referred to her weekly posts as “homework,” meaning it has to be turned in so it is what it is. That helped me. Frankly, Janet, you also captured what it is like to write a blog post. Thanks for that.
“Of course, not all posts are what I want them to be, …” Thanks for that Karen. I love the idea of seeing them as “homework,” too. And, let the record show, I loved homework. Did it quite eagerly. I really love those Sundays when three or four pop out easily and I can schedule them ahead, or spend extra time finding the photos. But most Sundays, I’m squeezing one out because it’s “due.” Homework. That IS how I’ve come to see it. A commitment to myself. Thanks, Karen.
I should add here that your posts the past six months or so have a dreamy quality to them that I find relaxing; your very peaceful energy just floats off the page and into my psyche. That’s what pulls me back to your site (that and my Monday morning notifications!) 🙂