Rambling With Writer’s Block

The last few months have been a whirlwind of everything writing. Mostly, that means working on this blog and I’ve been trying to keep up a schedule that allows me to be a month ahead with a post everyday. I’ve been good with the consistency having gone nearly two years without a miss. I’ve also written two books of poetry that I’ve been hoping to publish. One is based on my relationship with my grandfathers and father-in-law, each who have passed away, but taught me some very important lessons. The other is based on the Gold Star Mothers, particularly characters that I created from an actual Gold Star Mothers business journal that started in the 1950s and ran through the 1970s. Any publishers out there reading poetry now? Since I’m new to publishing, I have been attending two writer’s groups that have helped inspire me to get my work out there, but I think have also left me a bit intimidated by the process of getting “publisher feedback.” I’m learning it’s a slow process.

Since I teach and have the summer’s off, I thought this would be a great time to try some new projects. I have a couple of things working, but the writing has been so hard. With only two weeks to go until school starts and my idea well feeling dry, I decided to do a little home therapy and binge on Netflix. I’ve been on a two day bender and I’m feeling like there might be a break in the great wall of block that I’ve been fighting. Here’s what I’ve watched…

1. Jaco: Jaco Pastorius III was a jazz bassist who was recognized as one of the greatest players ever. He was not without demons and ultimately his life ended in tragedy. There was a scene in the movie where Jaco was said to have said something about doing great things with the bass in an almost spiritual way. I took that to mean he was going to find his voice and express it through the bass. I started thinking, “What’s my voice when I’m writing?” I’m not sure yet, but I’m more aware of finding it than I have ever been. I do know that hypocrisy and ways that we keep repeating history keep coming up in my blog. That’s a good start…

2. The Irish Pub: This documentary examined the culture of traditional Irish pubs, specifically those in Ireland. One of the writing groups I attend meets in an American-Irish pub. They are not the same. The pubs featured in the documentary has similar characteristics; small, intimate, built for conversation, and loyal to their communities. I loved the authenticity of both the story telling and of the people who were featured in the video. Whether cheerful or gruff, the one thing about all of the people was their sincerity and transparency. Is this another connection to finding that authentic writing voice? I think so…

3. The Winding Stream: Johnny Cash is a huge name, but to understand him, it is necessary to understand the Carter family and their influence on Johnny; all music, really. I grew up in eastern Virginia, but the western part of the state is a mystery to me. I considered going to college in Clinch Valley, I was sold on the recruiter more than the chance to go west as a young man, so when I heard the Carters mentioning the area in the documentary, I was immediately connected. My take away from the movie was a sense that the Carter-Cash family is “supposed” to play music and keep the old songs alive as if it is a duty, then and now. That same message was a theme of the Irish pub movie and I think it’s something I feel about writing. The block has been creeping in, but I can get around it, because writing feels like something I’m supposed to be doing. Sometimes the writing is good, other times crap, but it’s always necessary. I can embrace the struggle and know that it’s part of what I must experience. Coincidently, today I was asked if I had my fantasy team ready for football season. It’s a question I get asked a lot since I teach PE and coach basketball. I answered, “No,” and because most people are surprised that I don’t do any fantasy leagues, I knew to explain that I spend more time writing than I do watching sports. I didn’t get into the whole “it’s necessary for me,” but my life with sports (I love them) takes a back seat to my creative life.

4. Runnin’ Down a Dream: At four hours, this documentary required a couple of bathroom breaks, but I think it cracked the block wide open. (Upon review, I have to call foul on that last sentence.) I saw Tom Petty a really long time ago, thirty or so years, I think. I’m still trying to get my head around all the lessons in this documentary, but again, authenticity keeps coming up. I’ll say it, “I’m a fan of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.” I like the whole catalog of stuff, even the Stevie Nicks songs. My friends in college did not like his music, so I learned to listen to hair bands and LL Cool J. Whenever I drove, though, it was my music and TP and the Heartbreakers never got skipped. I never thought about why I liked his music. I just did. As I listened to the process that Tom and the band went through to create their music, I have an even deeper appreciation for what they’ve do. The music is honest…

I know the block is about to go away because I get feelings of connectedness to stuff I don’t normally notice. Most people think of them as coincidence, but I like to believe they are cosmic collisions. When was the first time I heard Weather Report? College. When was the last time I heard them? Sunday, the day before I watched the Jaco doc. I never knew he was or that he was in Weather Report. Coincidence or cosmic? I stepped into a dive bar for a quick beer the other day. The conversation that shot around the bar was unique and funnier than anything on television right now. I had never been there before, but the next day I found myself learning that traditional Irish pubs don’t have television or music so that people will talk to each other. Coincidence or cosmic? In the Winding Stream, John Prine is singing. He gets mentioned in the Runnin’ Down a Dream because Tom Petty’s bass player Howie Epstein produced Prine’s 1991 album. Okay, that one is probably coincidence, but I’ve been waiting for many weeks to watch the documentaries and then I decide to watch them both in the same day and I make that connection. Hmmm…

But that’s how the block is broken. The collisions, real or imagined, start hitting and off the words go. No kidding, as I’m writing a TPHB song (Burn Babble) just came on Radio Paradise.

Thank’s, everyone for your support… Hey, publishers, hit me up…

3 thoughts on “Rambling With Writer’s Block”

  1. Mia, thank you for your comment and support. I love when random events seem like they are smashing together for a reason, especially if I can’t explain them off. Be well, Chris

  2. Chris, this a wonderful post. Very reflective and positive, I love the idea of “cosmic collisions” there really is much truth there. The writer’s block lifts, it always does, and it sounds like your doing a marvelous job of not letting it stopping you from your goals. Everything you watched seemed to have a purpose, no coincidence. Enjoy the rest of your week. ~ Mia

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