Writer’s Block

Published June 28, 2020 in Warp & Woof


Writer’s Block

Where Am I Going, Anyway?
William Sundwick
I can’t seem to focus these days. Is it Coronavirus quarantine fatigue? Or, is it a much deeper philosophical crisis? I must ask myself: what kept me going writing in Warp & Woof, for nearly three-and-a-half years, that is now missing?
The obvious answer: my Writers Group is missing. For all those years, I wrote under strict weekly deadlines (with breaks between sessions). Now there are no such deadlines. And, it doesn’t look like I can reconstitute the group in the near future. Not until in-person classes are again offered by Arlington Community Learning, anyway. Zoom classes do not allow the kind of feedback that was critical for my weekly production of posts and kept me going during breaks. I relied on the six to nine classmates and instructor reading my output – and I theirs. Each week they would give me spontaneous thoughts on my piece, as I did for their work, complete with notes written on print copies of the piece. It was a good system, at once conversational and well-prepared. It was Jerry Haines’ system.
But then Jerry left for health reasons. ACL tried to replace him but could not. I’ve been lost without him. Among other things, Jerry taught me to focus on my intended audience. Was that audience the Writers Group itself? Or, did I have a different, virtual, audience in mind? Friends and family? I promoted my blog via social media contacts and email, although I never paid for promotion.
Facebook discussion groups and chat rooms have fallen out of fashion these days, however. Do I need a different means of promotion? Do I need another ACL Writers Group?
And, I am beginning to question whether I have anything to say. Perhaps now is the time to re-evaluate the five basic themes on which Warp & Woof was built:
  1.    .       The Past – “What Used to Matter,” I labeled it. This is my page for all pieces covering politics, history, and sociology. It has by far the most posts, after three-plus years of writing since launching the blog. The page reflects what I read.
  2.       .    The Present – “What Matters for Sure.” It is the next biggest collection, where I have written about health and fitness, including mental health and my own life today, as well as several excursions into my grandchildren’s lives. Certainly, my family and friends appreciate this material, and the Writers Group often gave me positive feelings about these pieces, too.
  3.           The Future – “What May Matter, Who Knows?” This page is decidedly thin on original content. Its only noteworthy topics have been related to economics, placed here as projections or explorations of consumer behavior. Originally, I thought I would cover more science and technology on this page, and maybe anthropology (enduring elements of the human experience). Alas, these never materialized after the inaugural year of Warp & Woof. Is it time to retire The Future?
  4.            Beats – “Sounds that Matter,” as I tagged it in 2017. It is perhaps the most coherent of all my pages, except for The Past, but has recently suffered because I’m simply not listening to music during this pandemic lockdown. My gym has been closed! I would always crank up my iTunes playlist on my phone while working out – but I don’t workout anymore. Sad. Perhaps Beats will pick up again in the future. I still maintain an interest in classic rock, blues, and more avant-garde forms of rock (punk and metal). My music speaks to me. I should be able to put it into words.
  5.            Totems – “Objects that Matter,” was really about car culture – something which apparently died (at least among potential audiences of Warp & Woof) more than twenty years ago. Beyond a planned piece on the decline and fall of General Motors, I’m not sure there is anything else in this realm that interests me enough to write about. If I were to write about EVs or autonomous vehicles, I could put it on The Futurepage, instead. Sigh.

If I seriously wanted to overcome my writer’s block, I think I would put more energy into writing on science and technology for The Future, and possibly launch a new page dedicated to political ideology (although I might keep covering elections and candidates in The Past). I used to be an information professional, so I ought to have a strong technology focus, right? But it may have been too long since I retired from that field. I could do some research, though! That might be fun.
If only I could recreate the feedback loop from that ACL Writers Group and Jerry. That would surely dissolve my writers block! But it would require collective reading and commenting, perhaps face-to-face in a classroom environment. This Spring, I had an unhappy experience with a Zoom writers’ class where nobody read anything, and all writing was limited to 250 words, only read aloud in a kind of “performance.” Not the experience I was seeking. Worse, I mistakenly chose Tara Reade and her accusation of sexual assault against Joe Biden as my topic – basing four short blurbs on that continuously breaking news cycle, with commentary about her reliability and “the truth.” It amounted to nothing, and my writing came across as shallow, given the constraining format of the class. Not my style.
Perhaps American politics, and media coverage of it, is too shallow? That alone could explain my writing doldrums lately. I need better subject matter!

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