Hunting is the wrong word. It is only fitting that this blog post about writer’s block should begin with a contradiction. But hunting is the wrong word. Too brutish, too primitive. As if I’m leaving the house wearing nothing but fox pelts, a notebook in one hand, and a club in the other. I’m leaving with neither and I wear regular person clothes. Sometimes I’m not leaving the house at all.
That first paragraph is perhaps the most appropriate example of my dilemma. Absent-minded musings about “hunting” and “poetry” and “foxes,” disgusting. I’ve been scouring the internet for some time now and much to my chagrin, most of the articles and remedies for writer’s block are written with an aura of thin detachment like the authors, between bouts of writer’s block, have already forgotten what it was like. So I thought to myself “Hey Benny, you write. You’re a writer. You write. You should write about writer’s block but not after you’ve overcome it, while you’re still in its grip,” as a catalog of sorts for future study. Genius. What my writing has been lacking for some time now is any sense of urgency and forward motion. I might enjoy individual sentences within that first paragraph, but altogether it doesn’t really get the reader anywhere, not to me at least.
It’s easy to chalk up this lack of focus to the quarantine and not my approach to writing but that notion is the opposite of comforting. The idea that writer’s block could swing in like a train (wait a sec); the idea that writer’s block could snuggle (nope); the idea that writer’s block could suddenly creep up on me like some sort of lizard-bug (time to move on) has the power to stick with me and keep me doubting any future success I have in writing. I refuse to live the rest of my life looking over my shoulder, wondering when I’ll suddenly be unable to write again. So ok, forward motion. What have I been doing to counteract this writing lethargy?
When I have writer’s block, it does not mean I am lacking in some kind of nebulous creative energy or divine writer’s karma, just lacking the ability to string that creative energy together in the moment. So I’ve been training myself to pounce on any remotely interesting thoughts I have and let them stew for a while in my notes app instead of immediately trying to jam them into a poem and forgetting them. Perhaps this is why I used the word “hunting” in the title. One part of me has hidden the poems, and they do not want to be found, and the other part of me is seeking them out. Eventually, I discover my poems in bits and pieces. Coaxing them off the street and into my notes app. Here are my notes after a short walk through my neighborhood:
- I want to hop that fence
- Some days I only see the sun in windows and mirrors
- A ball bouncing against the rim
- Brake lights = very red
- DUCK QUACK QUACK DUCK
- Fireflies and embers
- Yummy stew (I never said these were all good)
And here is the rough draft of a poem I wrote the following week:
I crave a “hop the fence” kind of certainty
I crave the truth until it turns me brake light red
And some days I only see the sun
Through windows and mirrors.
And some days I only see the sun.
And speaking of red, some days fireflies
And embers are the same
And some days,
across from the burger restaurant,
The old men congregate to smoke cigars beneath
This week’s billboard for cannabis.
I see them on my walk.
And speaking of the restaurant
See at the condo beside it
Standing above the houses, standing
Or leaning against the grey sea
See the planter bursting with too much dirt, bursting
And now I stroll towards the ocean.
Look, there are basketball courts
Where the school was
The ball bouncing on the rim sounds the same
Regardless of where it falls-
Through the hoop or not.
Regardless of where it falls
And it scares me.
Reach the ocean.
Find the Bird scooters and Lyft bikes
Abandoned or locked by the beach’s edge
A ball will never bounce on sand
A condo will never be larger than the sea
Embers and fireflies both start fires
Not all fences are chainlink
Some have teeth
It is by no means polished, but this piece is the first step towards slowly lifting myself out of this writing rut I’m in. One poem at a time.
Benjamin Leuty, Class of ‘22