Monday, August 20, 2012

A Personal Post on Struggling With Writer's Block

For those of you who are familiar with my work, there are several things that I hope you have noticed. Whenever I have an opinion, I try not only to make every effort to express it in thought-provoking ways, but also to make reference to the opinions that run contrary to mind. This fair-minded approach especially comes in handy when it comes to my political polemics, and even if I feel passionately about something, I take great care to emphasize that my opinion is mine, and not necessarily the “correct” one.

In addition to the methods in which I express my opinion, I also try to take a step back and try not to make my writing overly personal. Yes, I share my beliefs without any attempt to sugarcoat it, but I make every effort not to overload my prose with terms like “I think” or “in my opinion.” I feel like this does a better job of making people think with the words that I write than it would be if I littered it with references to myself, and it’s something I’ve strived to do ever since I started sharing my writing on the internet back in 2008.

There are occasions, however, when I shy away from that and make the difficult decision to cut myself open in public, and tonight is one of those instances. Normally, I’d simply toil away in secret and not really give you a glimpse into the inner workings of my mind, but in this instance, I felt that the potential catharsis and the opportunity to be held accountable by my friends and readers was too enticing to pass up.

If you follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, then you surely saw the posts I made earlier today about my current struggles with the dreaded phenomena of “writer’s block.” For the past month or so, I have tried again and again to come up with meaningful posts for my plethora of writing assignments, and all I have managed to do is come up with a couple of hits and a whole lot of misses. Potential posts on subjects involving fan expectation of loyalty from their favorite hockey players and on the hypocrisy surrounding Mitt Romney’s decision not to publicize his tax returns have gone by the wayside as I have sat for hours in front of my computer without the slightest compulsion to put my thoughts into coherent words.

To say that this has been maddening would be an understatement. I feel like the golfer who suddenly experiences a case of the “yips”, and is unable to make a fluid stroke with his putter, sending his score into the stratosphere and his confidence into the storm cellar. Much like professional golfers, I almost cringe at using the words “writer’s block”, because it almost seems like an attempt on my part to tempt fate into taking a swing at me with a fresh bout of it, but for the purposes of this post, I am going to say it and hope for the best.

With that in mind, I made my plea today to my followers and friends for any advice that they would like to give me in these circumstances. In true social media fashion, the suggestions came in fast and furious, and they ran the gamut in hilarious fashion. Drinking tended to be a favorite, with one word answers like “Scotch”, “whiskey”, and “Malort” being bandied about in gleeful fashion. Not content to allow the forces of debauchery have their day, several people also suggested physical exercise and meditation as potential cures for my woes. Finally, those who thought that drinking and exertion were too taxing were pleased to offer one of the deadly sins as the solution, with the word “sloth” coming to the tongues of several.

The irony that I was proposed every type of possible remedy notwithstanding, all of these suggestions got me to thinking as to the genesis of my current struggles with “da block”, as I’m sure no one on the streets has ever thought to say. Much to my chagrin, careful examination of my psyche is likely a symptom of a larger problem for me as of late, which has been an inability to motivate myself to do much of anything. I seem just as happy sitting in front of the TV watching a random soccer game than I am in sitting at the computer and pounding out essays and editorials, and that is just about the last thing that should be the case for someone seeking to make a dent in the world of journalism and writing in general.

In the end, however, it turned out to be a random customer at work tonight who brought the answer that I had been aggressively seeking on the internet this afternoon. This gentleman, who I have had the true pleasure (and there isn’t a drop of sarcasm in there, so to my friends, I implore you not to associate my standard practice of derision with my complimentary words) of interacting with in the past, seemed genuinely happy to see me in return, and after a brief conversation, he unloaded the heavy guns on me.

“Have you ever considered getting into politics?” he asked me.

“Of course I have. I actually was a political science major in college, and I’m going to study it in the winter,” I replied.

“Well, I think you would be very good at it, with how gregarious you are and all,” he said, my ego soaking up the nourishment. “I could see you working at an embassy, or at least something involving diplomacy.”

That last sentence is the one that really hit home for me that this was a potential watershed moment in all of the struggles I have been experiencing lately. This gentleman couldn’t have possibly known that I had international relations as my focus during my political science studies at the University of Illinois, but he pretty much affirmed that I had been on the right track before I had foolishly let life problems sidetrack me from my ultimate goal. He reminded me that I am capable of dreaming big dreams, and just because I’m a little more advanced in age doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t continue to pursue my goals.

That is where I am at right now in my war against writer’s block. I have discovered that the key to opening the floodgates of writing is twofold. One is to just keep at it no matter what life throws at me, but the other is to try to approach my various writing assignments with a focus on the bigger picture in mind at all times.
For my sports writing, in both hockey and baseball, I will from now on treat it as an avenue for me not only to espouse my opinions on the issues of the day, but also as a chance to hone my skills for what I am striving to do for a future career.

As for my political content, I will treat it as a high-quality back-up plan. I am very passionate about the subject, and am looking forward immensely to regaining my drive to provide commentary on the degradation of discourse among the voting populace, as well as to scream from the mountaintops about the dangers of the extremism that our politicians have been railing with over the past several years, especially on the right side of the aisle.

I know that flowery rhetoric and a high-minded “I CAN DO THIS” attitude will not be enough to keep the forces of darkness at day during this battle, but I am sincerely hoping that with my newfound armaments of big picture thinking that I can keep them at bay long enough to get back into the swing of things. I guess the only thing left to do now is to stop focusing so much on myself and to focus on the subjects that I have covered with so much passion in recent days.

I look forward to sharing those new pieces with all of you, and I want to sincerely thank you not only for reading them, but for also attending to me during this hour of need in my life. I am truly blessed to have people who I’ve known all my life and those who I have never met in person both on my side during this time, and I will never take any of you for granted. 

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