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Kick That Block; Block That Kick ► Unpacking the Writer

I am in the middle of the worst case of Writer’s Block in my lifetime.

I’ve been through this before and it usually dissipates naturally without my having to work it it. This one hasn’t and only seems to have gotten stronger the more I kick at it. In an effort to kick it to the curb, let’s talk about some of the reasons why this might be happening.

1). To begin with, I actually write every day . . . In my head while UberLyfting. I am on the road for hours and hours on end. During that time I write paragraph after paragraph in my head. This article, for example, has already been written dozens of times. I have, in my head on any number of occasions, reordered these paragraphs and come up with certain wording and bullet points. Writing so much in my head, by the time I get home to my keyboard it already feels finished, so I don’t bother to put it down digitally.

2). Speaking of when I get home: I sit down at the PC —with the tee vee on in the background— and start reading the news of the day on the various websites I haunt. Then I start farting around on the facebookery. By the time I next look at the clock it’s 3 or 4 in the afternoon and I no longer feel like writing.

3). Speaking of the afternoon: This is somewhat difficult for me to admit, being as how I’ve been a professional writer my entire adult life, but I stopped being able to write in the afternoons. It used to be that I could write day or night. I would wake up at any hour and start pounding on a keyboard, creating legible sentences and paragraphs. Writing was something that I had to do, not necessarily something I wanted to do, altho’ I did. Words were always pouring out of me in one form or another.

However, I noticed a number of years ago (about 5, if I had to estimate) that, while I could write up a storm in the mornings, any word craft later in the day was junk. All my articles for NewsHounds and PoliticusUSA were written early in the morning. Most (if not all) of my posts at Not Now Silly were written in the morning. If I tried to write in the afternoons, it came slowly, if it came at all. And, what I produced was of such poor quality that I’d often scrap it entirely or spend so much time editing it into shape that I may as well have scrapped it and started over. That may have been easier and faster.

4). I used to set aside time every day to write because I had assignments due, or a post I was compelled to write. Lately, I don’t seem to have anything I really want to write about, so I make posts on the facebooky, as if that’s really writing at all.

5). One of the heavier things weighing on my mind (but not the most) is this: If you’ve been following along at home, you’ll know how I’ve been writing about Coconut Grove for the last decade; first trying to save the E.W.F. Stirrup House (a battle lost, as the house has now been replicated, not renovated) and then moving on to fight the runaway gentrification on Charles Avenue. My last article on that topic was Rapacious Developers Are Destroying A Historic Black Neighbourhood.

Not to put too fine a point on it, no one shared this article. I’ve checked every corner of the internet I could shine a light into. I could not find a single instance of it being shared. None of the stakeholders in Coconut Grove seemed to care enough to share it. No one who professes love for Charles Avenue shared it. I couldn’t get the Miami Herald to look into it and no other pundit or publication showed a scintilla of interest.

It was a severe blow to my ego.

“Why the fuck should I knock myself out?”, I started to ask myself in the way one asks questions in your head during moments of self-doubt. I don’t live in Miami. I don’t even live in that county. The E.W.F. Stirrup House is 37.2, 40.1, or 41.2 miles away from me (depending on which highway I take). On a good day I can be there in an hour. On a bad day it’s take 3 hours. Three fucking hours on I-95 that could be better spent, even if it’s just cleaning lint out of my navel or farting around on the facebookery.

Why should I spend all that time, all that gas, all that energy, all that money on FOIA requests, when the efforts of my research are not appreciated by those I thought I was helping?

And, that particular thought bothers me as well. Was I doing this because it was the right thing to do? Or was it because I was trying to impress people in Coconut Grove? I thought it was the former, but this question preying on me makes me think that maybe it was the latter.

6). Here’s a larger data point looming within my Writers’ Block: While trying to get over this hump, I started writing an intensely personal confession about something from my past. It’s actually something I had been working on for decades, but —again— only in my head. Without going into detail (because that’s what that post would have done and will still do once [if?] I get back to it), I have recovered a childhood memory that has me questioning WTF?

Then I began the slow and emotionally difficult process of writing an article about it. I was making incremental progress on it, despite having to kick against the writers’ block. And then: Disaster!

As odd as it seems, the news of the day made me question whether I should finish and publish the article. It’s not that I couldn’t make this confession. It was more that I couldn’t make it at that time. It would have appeared as if I was jumping onto a bandwagon, trying to make something that was not about me all about me.

Consequently, I shelved the article to the point of deleting the draft I has been working on. It’s gone and, if I ever want to finish it, I will have to start it all over again.

It’s something I need to write eventually (if only for my sanity), but don’t know how much time will be needed before it no longer appears that I’m just trying to shine by reflection of other people’s difficulties.

7). Last, but certainly not least, because it’s really the #1 reason I am going through this: I feel like I’m losing my ability to rite gud. Whether it’s because the lack of use has atrophied my writing muscle or because my brain is not firing the way it used to. When I do try to write I occasionally get lost in the paragraph. I hit a dead end and no longer remember where I was going. Then I have to sit and reread what’s there before I can find the roadmap that gets me out of there. Occasionally, I’ll even lose my place in the middle of a word.

There’s no GPS system for getting lost like that. I have to find my way out of the maze on my own and there are times it’s a struggle.

For all these reasons I have been having trouble getting words down lately. The only saving grace is that this article came relatively easy and quickly. That may be because I’ve written it in my head many times already. Or, maybe, hopefully, fingers crossed, I am getting over this hump.

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My Freedom of Information requests from the City of Miami are beginning to add up, not to mention all the other costs of researching systemic racism and corruption in Coconut Grove  


Headly Westerfield
Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.