Writer’s block tried to ruin me


Sharp panic accompanies a blank page, so I hardly ever use one. It’s a mental trick. You see, I write columns in a contiguous Google Doc of half-formed paragraphs and ideas, grotesque jabberwocky prose that eventually gets too bloated to work.

My previous document was 629 pages and 127,000 words before freezing. My current record is a third of that in various states of undress, a tip jar from a busker. Add a few words (40,000) and you can fool yourself.

Not this week. Not immediately. Can you tell I have writer’s block? This normally does not happen. I built a catalog by being fast, productive, and free from the prison of overthinking. Confident writing is a muscle that grows with use, every collection of words a bicep curl. I write two columns and an email newsletter every week, and in my free time, some fiction. I am permanently in writing. The results vary, but the words come out and I move on.

This blockage however, this intellectual fatberg got stuck in the pipes of my right hemisphere and did not move. In a hysterical state, I made repetitive trips to the coffee maker and sent a message to my editor that read, “Trying to avoid a complete mental spiral is the update.” For four days I couldn’t concentrate or even compose a tweet. It’s 280 characters. Emojis are an option. real housewives GIFs. Pictures of sloths.

There have been times lately when the internet seems so bad, so fast, so furious that no path seems distillable, entertaining, or insightful. I started and stopped songs, took notes on local and global events, played with potential titles, undermined my lackluster and puny personal life.

The Google document became a notepad found under the floor of an isolated cubicle.

Don’t waste food. Use all the food in the fridge! Be inspired by French.

Starting a community garden? Discover logistics.

Is gas for millionaires?

Men online. Is this the end of men?

Apparently, “things” are no worse today than they were yesterday or two years ago. “Things” go wrong on an ever-increasing scale. The “things” are fine with me, personally. So what? What happens when the stream freezes?

Reputable writers have offered opinions on the B-word ranging from “death is the only escape” to “it’s wrong”. Those who say writer’s block is a myth probably don’t have three permanent deadlines a week.

British writer Alexander McCall Smith once said The daily mail that “Writer’s Block is a bunch of nonsense,” which he finds it helpful to go to Botswana to open his mind. OK fine! Again, there was Ray Bradbury in The Paris review with more practical advice: “I have three rules to follow. One, do your job. If that doesn’t work, shut up and drink your gin. And when all else fails, run like hell!

It’s not just writers who are suffocated, is it? Interior designers must have days when everything looks gray and flat. Chefs have nights where each sauce is 70% emulsified waste. Accountants have times when the numbers are complete nonsense. The lights twinkle in everyone’s mind.

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I’m tempted to blame the barrage of online stimuli, trending topics, hot take cycles, hot reactions to hot takes, hot reactions to hot takes corrections. How can one find the time to interrogate the dusty corners of the soul when there is always something bright to see? For my part, I need to review every Cannes dress.

My favorite cure for writer’s block is to get out of the office. Not Botswana, but, like, a cafe. And, of course, reading. This week I picked up a book by Mary Schmich, a retired columnist from The ChicagoTribune. Let’s visit page 44 of Even terrible things seem beautiful to me now:

In times when I don’t have anything to fill in this column – which really isn’t happening right now – I recite this phrase to myself over and over. Panic is my muse. Panic is my muse. Panic is my muse.

She wrote it in 1999. The internet may be rotting our brains, but the panic is timeless!

In the end, the loosening worked. Admitting that I was, as they say in Paris, “the loser,” shook up free ideas, shook up those words. The muscle was there, hidden under a dopamine afghan, hidden inside the cortical folds of fate. He just needed a nap before continuing.

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