Writer’s Block: A success story

I spent an hour slamming my head against my desk this afternoon as I ran draft after draft of descriptive ledes for my dairy farming story through my head.
Okay, so the head slamming part is a bit of an exaggeration, but I still think it’s a fair visualization of the brain-crumbling, spirit-devouring condition otherwise known as writer’s block.

Just about every blogger on my reader’s feed tagged “Writing” or “Journalism” has a post about writer’s block somewhere in his history, so I guess it’s about time I joined the ranks. It’s no wonder, really, that so many writers are fixated on this bizarre and debilitating state of mind. There isn’t a cure for it; there’s no drug or therapy or acupuncture treatment that will magically stimulate creativity. It’s a phase, an inevitable dark side to the writer’s tortured mind.

In case you can’t tell, I’m still a little bitter about the hour wasted at work today, and it’s manifesting itself in the form of angst. Readers, I apologize.

This post isn’t just a melodramatic rant, though, so don’t abandon my blog in favor of mindless memes (although if you’re going to go down that route, I strongly encourage frustrated journalism cat). There is, amazingly enough, hope for even the most foregone of writer’s block victim’s.

It’s called a break.

My eyes were fizzling in their sockets by lunch time, but I still hadn’t made any progress on my story. I’d looked at photographs from my interview for inspiration, googled cow images, even tried to find poetry about cows online, to no avail. My word document was a jumbled mess of row after row of abandoned, half-finished sentences.

Then Trish popped her head in my office.

“Craig and I were going to do lunch at the Blue Bird today. A sort of celebration for surviving this crazy week. Wanna come? My treat!”

And what a treat it was. Little did Trish and Craig know that our little excursion down College Avenue was more than a meal for me (and lunch out is quite a treat for a summer intern, as any college student knows) – it was a brain saver.

A token of my lunch break!

Lunch was delightful, by the way. We clinked our glasses of diet coke to my third week on the job. We talked about the newspaper, the bureaucratic messiness of having to work under a parent company, Trish’s unusual love of antique outhouses and Craig’s passion for old guitars and his pre-Chestertown life. In honor of my first trip to the Blue Bird, Trish had the bartender sign a coaster for me as a souvenir.

When I came back to my office, everything was clear. Everything seemed brighter, sharper, as if my brain could finally process the sunlight streaming through my window as something beautiful and writing-worthy. As I browsed through my photos again, I started to relive my afternoon on the farm. I could feel the story come alive, and I noticed connections between the poetry in the photos and the words I’d transcribed from the interview. Suddenly, it all made sense.

I’m a bit of a workaholic; I crave productivity, and I like a tinge of stress in my daily life. It’s a blessing and a curse, really. As much as I love how the heaviness of a long day drugs me into a deep sleep at night, it can also wear me a bit thin.

I’m constantly relearning the lesson that rest is just as important as hard work when it comes to success. Whether it’s going out to lunch out with coworkers, cracking open a guilty pleasure read, or checking your Facebook wall, a little bit of non-work isn’t laziness: It’s self-preservation.

I think I might just treat myself to lunch at Sam’s next week…


One thought on “Writer’s Block: A success story

  1. reimaginejournalism says:

    This is so true. There are many times where I let stories sit overnight (I work at a weekly, so I have a little bit more time for self-editing) so I can get a fresh look at a story in the morning. Staring at a blank screen does nothing to help write a story any faster. I’m also a work-a-holic myself, and I’ve been known to eat lunch while working on more than one occasion (especially in college). But it’s always good to get that break.
    P.S. On a side note, Frustrated Journalist Cat is awesome!

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