Monday, March 2, 2009

I Wouldn't Call It Writer's Block

I don't like the term "writer's block." It scares me. I do admit to an occasional lack of ideas. A sort of inspirational drought. This is one of those times. I sit at my computer, browsing my folders of submitted articles, some published, looking for revelation. The phone rings.

It's my husband, reminding me of a date we have with our daughter this evening. He chats away while my eyes dart back to my monitor. "The most interesting thing is happening here." His voice is full of enthusiasm. "A Canada goose built a nest right outside my office window. Sometimes I feel like an intruder, watching this little family." He goes on to say that he put up a barricade to three of the parking stalls near the nest, just so the goose won't be frightened off and leave her roost. The gander stays close, even sitting on the nest while the goose waddles off to find food. "Remind me to take my camera tomorrow—the goslings should be popping out any day now."

"Umm," I answer. "Well, I need to get back to work."

I open a file, an article recently published about our trip to Hell's Canyon. I could submit that for reprint. I glance at my watch. In a few minutes my neighbor will take me down to pick up my car that's been repaired. My mind wanders to the owner of the shop. He manages a busy automotive shop and has several mechanics working for him. He has only one leg and uses crutches—he's about the age to be a Viet Nam vet. I admire his courage and his stamina. He must work twice as hard as the rest of us to get his job done. A couple of years ago I broke a small bone in my foot and I griped about that inconvenience. With crutches, you loose the full use of your hands, too. I wonder what his story is, how he lost his leg. I wonder what my bill will be.

It's nice of Jenny, my neighbor to take me down to the shop. She's pretty preoccupied right now. Drugs have taken over her son’s life. "I've learned so much about addictions," she told me once. She says she could write a book, but she's too tired.

Maybe instead of a reprint, I should rework that Hell's Canyon story.

A few years ago we moved from a regular neighborhood to a new home on five-acres. Moving is always time consuming and it was hard to think of anything else for awhile. It's what we always wanted to do, but I'd wished I'd known then what I know now. For one thing, having your own water well opens up a world of questions. What's involved in a water test? Do we have to worry about efficiency calculations? Why did our white clothes—especially my nylon panties—turned a blotchy brown? I just hoped I wouldn’t get in a car accident. After researching the Internet and consulting a chemist, we've finally answered most of these questions. All this took chunks of time away from writing though.

Okay, settle down now and find a topic.

Only two weeks after we moved in, the American Red Cross called. I go on three or four national disasters a year, working as a volunteer. I've responded to hurricanes, tornadoes or floods in places like Louisiana, St. Croix, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, West Virginia and Kansas. This time Red Cross was involved in helping with the Kosovo refugee program at Fort Dix, New Jersey. The job was fascinating and I felt a little part of history as I learned the refugees' scary—often tragic—stories. It was humbling, realizing all they had lost. By the time I got home, my mind was a jumble of all I had seen and heard.

Our four children all live within an easy drive of us. I love getting together with them, even if it is time away from writing. I have to smile when I remember what our oldest son said once when he was about three. A radio newsman announced a traffic snarl on our local freeway. Because of fog, he warned of a seventeen-car pile-up. "Wow," my little son had said. "Seventeen cars! How high would that be?"

Okay, now. Get back to business. What can I write about?


Page Lambert said...

Mary, writers with too many ideas suffer with symptoms similar to ADD,I think - we're a bit like ping pong balls, too responsive in some ways to our environment. Settling down to one idea can be a challenge. Seems like I'm always telling myself, FOCUS! FOCUS! FOCUS!

Alice Trego said...

I loved this entry, Mary! You give a whole new meaning to the mere definition of Writer's Block!

As writers we are cognizant of everything that's going on around us, but it isn't until we write something down, and relax, that we realize we do have something to write about.


Heidiwriter said...

Mary, This is a wonderful piece! So many things to write about, but we sometimes wear blinders while we're struggling with trying to find something...


Jean Henry Mead said...

Mary, I contribute to so many blogs that I sometimes block when I sit down to write. When that happens, I pick up the newspaper and always find something that sparks an idea to write about.

When I'm working on a book, I reread the previous chapter and it propels me right back into the story. I think it's a good idea to have a notepad handy to jot down ideas for other articles or scenes while you're writing. Then you never run out of ideas.

Eunice Boeve said...

Hi Mary,
Interesting piece. I felt such a kinship. You describe writing, indeed life itself so succinctly.