The Question Is ...
People often ask me two questions when we’re talking about writing (OK, let’s say “People sometimes ask …” because “often” makes it sounds like I’m constantly traveling around giving speeches, lectures and readings to huge crowds, which I’m not … but I’m willing):
Question 1: “How do you decide what to write?”
Question 2: “Do you ever get writer’s block?”
These are good and appropriate questions to ask a writer, and they’re also the basis of today’s piece which is, with a nod to Seinfeld, about nothing.
Let me explain by using each of these questions to exemplify what and how I felt this morning.
Question 1: How do you decide what to write?
As I stood in the kitchen preparing my pre-dawn drink (this morning it was tea of some sort; I know there are millions of flavors, but they all taste basically the same to me -- like seasoned dishwater -- but as someone trying to reduce my coffee intake, it’s an appropriate substitute I guess), I started thinking about today’s topic. Here’s what went through my head:
· The time I got caught stealing candy while grocery shopping with my mom
· Why I don’t like drive throughs
· Leftovers (that’s it, just leftovers)
· I like airports … until I don’t
· When we say, “Life gets in the way,” shouldn’t we actual say we’re getting in life's way?
· Is the cribbage board just a marketing scam? I mean, we could just keep score with a pad and pencil.
· Why I owe so much to Erma Bombeck and Nancy Drew (Don’t judge …)
· “Ooh! I could write about how things -- like looks and comments -- can be misunderstood … like, ‘Is it a sigh of disgust or a sigh of relief?’ or ‘Are you staring because you’re interested or to intimidate me?’ ”
There were more (believe it), but that’s just what bubbled up in the six minutes it took to boil the water and steep the tea, so I’ll spare you the rest. (Spoiler alert, none my other ideas were any better.)
Then, I thought maybe I’d just rehash an old essay, which we “in the business” like to call an encore presentation, which really means the creator/host is simply too lazy to conjure up something new, so today, he/she/they are going to warm up some leftovers (see above) hoping you’ll be OK with that (or even better, that you won’t notice).
Today, I fell smack in between using one of the ideas above (some or all of which I’ll likely write about in the future) and serving leftovers (which happens on occasion when I don’t feel like cooking for you folks; hey, sometimes life gets in the way, am I right?).
So that’s my answer to Question 1; I just let my brain talk to me until I decide, “OK, enough! I’ll sit down and write something just to get you off my damn back!” Probably not the romantic, fairytale approach you expected from a writer, but isn’t that why we always say, “You don’t want to see how the sausage is made?” (I’ll bet it was the same for Bombeck.)
Question 2: “Do you ever get writer’s block?”
I tell people I don’t believe in writer’s block because even when I have nothing to say (which is, admittedly, most of the time), I can still type something into my computer or go "old school" with pen and paper (since I don't need them to keep score in cribbage).
For me, writing is simply an activity -- if we relieve ourselves from the obligation to make it good or entertaining -- much like digging a ditch or peeling potatoes.
Of course, if you want something more from your writing, you need to put in additional effort and brain work. But if I want to write, I can write something, though it may not be a masterpiece. (You’re reading it now.)
So no, I don’t get writer’s block because to me, there’s always something to write. Is it good? Maybe, maybe not, but that doesn’t keep me from doing the activity. Now, ask me if I suffer from “quality” blocks? Yes, all the time (again, just use this piece as an example). Do I struggle through “motivation” blocks? Yup. Do I get “You are the worst f**king writer ever; do everyone a favor and stop now” blocks? About three times a week. Are there times when I endure the “I’ve written 1,100 words and this piece still has nothing to offer” blocks? Oh yes. (Heavy sigh … not a sigh of relief.)
But in the end, I don’t get writer’s block. I simply write, good or bad, long or short, fiction or non-fiction, funny or serious because that’s what I do, and I if I do enough of it, often enough, at some point I’ll come up with something good.
Now, if you’ve hung in with me so far today, I want to both thank you and apologize to you. I wish I had a great closing or payoff for you; a reward for your loyalty, a tidbit of wisdom or humor to take with you as you go about your day. But I don’t. All I can offer you are these four words …
You’re free to go.
Enjoy the day, and if I haven’t driven you away with this inane drivel, I’ll see you next week.
© 2023 David R. Haznaw