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January 17, 2013 9:08 am

MY LOUSY WORLD: Writer’s block is no joke

Written by Doug Blough

I never thought it could happen to me. Writer’s block only happens to the other writer — that’s what I thought anyways. Imagine my horror when, just after Christmas, I developed a case of stage three writer’s block that has persisted unrelenting.

Today is no different. I place my fidgety fingers on the keyboard and stare at my monitor, which seems to taunt, “Well? What are we waiting for, Funny Boy? Next Christmas?”

To most, simple writer’s block seems pretty insignificant in a world of cancer, shootings, no more Twinkies, etc. But for a writer — to whom expression via words means everything — it’s a frightening condition that can become tragically permanent.

I’ve heard horror stories of accomplished writers who suddenly contract writer’s block so severe that they’re never again able to string together an intelligible sentence.  I heard one man had to be institutionalized, where he sits around in his pajamas all day writing meaningless clichés like “At the end of the day, it is what it is.”

Throughout my 22 years of writing weekly columns, I’ve been asked on occasion to speak to high school writing classes. The most often asked question after “Have your teeth always been that color?” has been, “Do you ever run out of things to write about?”

Up until now, the answer has always been an emphatic: “Nosirree.” I could count on one hand of a nearsighted woodworker the times I’ve struggled to come up with a column idea. On any given day, I can read the newspaper and find several truth-stranger-than-fiction column entrees just begging to be expounded upon. 

For instance, earlier today I picked up a newspaper at random from my living room floor and saw this plum of a headline: “Man admits to smuggling birds in pants.” At a Miami airport, Alberto Diaz was searched and found to have 16 Cuban bullfinches in his pants, trying to smuggle them from Cuba into the U.S. to sell.

It sounds like one of those Direct TV Commercials: “When your cable company keeps you on hold, you      get angry and bored. When you get angry and bored, you fill your pants with rare Cuban birds. When you fill your pants with birds, you get severe injuries to your lower extremities. Don’t fill your pants with birds. Get rid of cable and upgrade to DirectTV.”

At least Diaz had the good sense not to try and smuggle woodpeckers, which would be fraught with even more peril than bullfinches, one would think.

Another short article was titled: “Agency retracts reprimand for flatulence.” Apparently the Social Security Agency was forced to retract a reprimand to an employee accused of “conduct unbecoming a federal employee” and “creating a hostile work environment,” because of repeated gas passing. The letter contained a chart documenting 60 instances of flatulence, “nine on one day in September.”

Co-workers didn’t want to work with this guy because of the problem the employee attributed to lactose intolerance, but senior management issued a directive to rescind the reprimand. A better editor would have titled it: “Toot rebuke moot.”

So normally I’d have no problem coming up with column ideas, but this maddening writer’s block has me totally bereft of ideas. I could write about my New Year’s resolutions, but I only made two. The first was to grow taller this year — at least a couple inches to bring me back up to the national average. And secondly, I shall strive to be less sedentary. Instead of lying on the couch watching TV, I plan to sit up much more often.

I could write about animals, but I’m told I write too often about pets. I will say though that you know you’re a true animal-lover if you can’t pass someone walking a dog without uttering, “Ahhh.” I know that’s what I utter. “Ahhh” is one of those involuntary words that automatically comes forth without any real forethought. It’s like “Ouch!” when one stubs one’s toe or is pecked by a bird in one’s pants.

Who ever decreed “ouch” to be the universal exclamation of sudden pain, anyway? When David’s stone struck Goliath on the forehead, did the big lug bellow “OUCH!” and it seemed so fitting that it became official? I dare you to say any other word when something suddenly hurts.

“Yuck!” is another one. You see two homely people kissing or hear a co-worker passing gas and you automatically say “yuck.” It’s impossible to say anything else.

I give up. I have absolutely no idea what to write about. It is what it is, I guess.

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