I’ve recently realized that I’ve been writing this column for what is becoming an awfully long time. The column has been in my favorite paper, The World, every other week, since mid-May 1994. Okay, so, since it’s now the middle of March 2022, that adds up to approximately 27 years and ten months’ worth of these wonderful (hardly) bits of humor and wisdom being foisted upon Central Vermont readers. At 26 columns per year that amounts to 729 columns, plus about twenty more for the last ten months. Whew!
So, approximately 750 times this great Vermont paper has honored me by publishing my work; in 750 issues they have not once refused a column from me. (They must not read them. That’s all I can figure out.)
My realization here is that in all those weeks, months, and years of writing this stuff, I have never lacked for something to write about. (My wife used to call me an endless pit, and I never knew if that was supposed to be a compliment. It didn’t sound like one.) The truth is, I have never had much writer’s block; I’ve never had huge struggles with the ‘terror of the empty page’ problem, as it has been called.
When I was teaching English language arts, I sort of invented an exercise for my creative writing students to do if they just could not begin a story. What happened was this. I had them take out one of those ‘empty pages’ and simply begin writing words. ANY words. Okay, so, I meant any words the Christian school I taught at would approve of.
Somehow, for most of those high school kids, only a few moments into this exercise I would find them with slight grins, writing sentence after sentence of a new story. The empty page was gone, and their creative juices had started flowing. To this day I don’t know why that works. If you’re having a problem getting started with a letter, a report, a poem or a 100,000-word novel, that exercise might be a good place to begin.
Today, and I mean the very day of this writing, 24 hours from my deadline for next week’s paper, I am struggling a bit to come up with a topic. This really is a strange feeling for me. And, in fact, I’m not sure if I ever will come up with an actual topic here. I won’t resort to the empty page exercise, at least not yet.
Much of the reason I’m struggling to write today is that I simply don’t feel like putting in the work right now, but that old deadline is still looming. That’s not a good combination. I think that most people who would never think of writing publicly themselves believe that there is some special thing in a writer that makes them just love to do it. For me that is occasionally the case, but most of the time writing is work. Writing a long piece, such as a novel, is a LOT of work.
Also, (Never begin a paragraph with ‘also,’ okay?) I just haven’t been in a good mindset to write the past few weeks or so. They say that you are what you eat, you know. ‘Also,’ we have all heard the adage ‘garbage in, garbage out.’ I confess, I’ve been watching the news a lot the past few weeks, and that has definitely affected my attitude. Like I said, garbage in, garbage out. News of inflation, gas prices, food prices, shortages of everything, and the whole political blame game has been pushing more positive stuff in my brain into a smaller and smaller corner, it seems. “Wars and rumors of wars.” Mark 13:7, Holy Bible, are competing for space in there too.
Well, I have come to at least one decision while writing these very words to you. That decision is to watch less news and stop fretting until The President, or a senior White House official calls on me to manage the war or inflation. So far, that hasn’t happened, and worrying about those things is getting me nowhere. Praying about them always helps.
I need to spend more time in appreciation of what I have, of where I live, and especially of the people in my life. That way it will be fun to write again, and not as much work. So, there’s my topic.
And with that I can begin the next 27 years and ten months in ‘The World.’ (Avoid starting sentences with And or But.)