My So-Called “Writer’s Block”

It could be argued that I’ve recently had a bad case of “writer’s block.” For the last few weeks I haven’t added to my current Work-In-Progress, or if I did, it was maybe a paragraph at a time. The problem wasn’t my story because I knew I liked the concept. What troubled me was that I didn’t write anything else either. No other story or even fanfiction appealed to me for what seemed like almost a month.

I think the cause might have been stress. Yes, like any true millennial I live with my family (sarcasm, people), but I was still losing my job. I pay for all my own expenses like car insurance, student loans and my smartphone plan (I constantly offer to pay rent but Mom doesn’t take it since I save every penny). Plus I found out about that two-consecutive-knee surgeries thing right around the time my boss announced the doors were closing. I can usually keep my eye on the goal of fixing my knees, but surgery and recuperation never sounds like fun.

Eventually, at night when I finally settled down on the couch, I’d take a nap even though I’d wanted to write. Or I wouldn’t have enough concentration. “Depression” isn’t the word but “stress” definitely is.

When I get in these modes I start to worry: “What if I never write again? What if I never get my groove back?” This time around, blogging gave me my groove back. The rush of churning out long posts reminded me that I’m a writer, damn it. Sit your ass down in front of that text document and write.

Finally today I wrote more than a page of my WIP. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much but it was a lot for me, and it feels good.

I think “writer’s block” should be called “writer’s break” instead. There is no mystical anti-muse preventing you from writing. For whatever reason, your mind has decided that you need to step back from whatever you’re working on and deal with other things for a while. The trick is when you start to miss writing, sit your ass down and write something even if it’s not the novel that will make you famous. Pretty soon you’ll be ready to resume your regularly-scheduled project…if you haven’t moved onto something else by then. And that’s okay too.

 

Book Review: “Talk of the Town” by Lisa Wingate

After browsing the selection of FREE ebooks in Amazon’s Kindle section, I realized I wanted “Dear Journal” to be part-book review blog. I love to spread the word about great finds.

My first pick is “Talk of the Town” by Lisa Wingate, book one in her “Welcome to Daily, Texas” series. I’ve always lived in the New York boroughs so I romanticize the idea of small-town life (Staten Island can be like a small town, but it’s not the same). While there are fewer businesses, and I wouldn’t want everyone knowing my business, I’d like to try it somewhere down the line. This is why I can enjoy books, Hallmark movies and country songs about the lifestyle. Even if an author’s portrayal is an exaggeration, how would I know? It’s similar to when doctors can’t watch Grey’s Anatomy because of the inaccurate medical jargon, but most fans aren’t bothered at all.

What I like about “Talk of the Town” is that it’s more than you’d expect from the summary. On the surface it looks like a typical city-girl-meets-country-boy tale, Hollywood-meets-small town America, and I was sold on that alone. Then I picked up spiritual undertones, a theme about questioning where we are in life. (I’ve already mentioned I’m not religious but I can be interested when it shows up in media. For a while I was even hooked on Touched by an Angel reruns. Goes along with that “appreciating the passion/beliefs of others” mindset.) The book runs deeper than anticipated thanks to Daily native Imagene Doll. Her story about finding herself after her husband’s passing is just as endearing as the younger characters’ love story. Meanwhile, co-main character/reality show producer’s assistant Mandalay Florentino has second thoughts about her fast-paced Los Angeles lifestyle and the direction of her career.

There are two more in the series I plan to read next. You can download “Talk of the Town” here.

Seeing all sides of an issue doesn’t always seem like a gift. I’m better at coping with situations, and I can get along with most people even if I’m not crazy about them. I’m grateful that I almost never direct my anger outwardly. If there’s any anger at all, I keep it inside until it passes or distract myself with writing. When someone needs to hear someone I tell them, but to me, I have to be willing to risk the possible consequences. Will I stand my ground if my “honesty” leads to very hurt feelings?

This is why I don’t discuss politics, or religion, or anything I don’t 1000% believe in. And it’s impossible for me to 1000% believe in most things. An open mind means questioning what many never question their whole lives (and a part of me envies those who are happier for it). Maybe I’m not an atheist, but I’m not sure which religion I’ll end up subscribing to for the rest of my life – if I pick one at all. I received Communion, made Confirmation, all before I really thought about what I was signing up for. How are kids supposed to decide what religion they want to follow? Two of my friends were brought up Catholic, went to Catholic school with me, but now refuse to label themselves as such.

Politics drives me crazy, simple as that. If I ever come across a law that drives me to stand up and fight, sure, I’ll rally the troops. I’ll even support a cause that moves me. Most of the time though, I’m more concerned with the day-to-day. I’m thinking about the company I work for shutting down, the MRI I’m going for soon, Mother’s Day gifts, what my friends and I should do this weekend. I don’t want to upset myself by getting into a “healthy debate” with someone who won’t change his or her mind anyway. My friends are very liberal and I don’t always agree with them, but I won’t try to burst their bubbles just for the hell of it. In a way it’s nice to see them so enthusiastic even if I don’t share their enthusiasm.

(I’m aware of the election but don’t want to support anyone. Do I have to vote?

…yeah, yeah, civic duty, I get it…)

My chronic ambivalence has led to a “to each their own” philosophy. I support LGBT mainly because it’s none of my business. I mean, why not? If two consenting adults love each other, have at it. The transgender bathroom issue has me scratching my head more than anything else. I wonder if I would even notice a transgender person walking into a public bathroom with me. Usually I’m busy, you know, running for a stall. I can’t say I’ve looked around at other people much before going in.

I think way too much.

“Does it matter? We won’t be here anyway.”

It’s a sad day when this becomes your company motto. The company I work(ed) for was small to begin with, even before some moved on, so up until a few months ago we all had to pitch in. We always helped a coworker if she was out or had too much on her desk. (The group is mostly women with two guys left in our location, a few others if you include the second location and techs.) Those of us on the downstairs/sleep lab floor worked our butts off when business was normal.

A few of us cared too much, and on top of that, none of us have a filter. Things have been said that would get a person fired – or at least in trouble with HR – anywhere else. We always brushed it off though, because at the end of the day we’d rather stick with each other than adjust to someone new.

For these reasons and more, it was very difficult to flip a switch and stop caring. At first, when we still had everyday things to do, we continued to make sure they were done right like we always did. We kept asking each other, “Wait, do I have to do this anymore? Should I just throw this file out?” Then if someone got crazy over an overlooked detail, we all joked, “Who cares? What’s the boss going to do, fire us?” We even joked about putting the phone message service on so we could actually enjoy our half-hour lunch for the first time in like, ever.

There was also the stress of finding a new job. Coworkers would cry because of their financial situation. Fortunately many have found new jobs or have a plan by now. The first couple weeks, though…the palpable stress was emotionally draining. We knew business wasn’t good but most of us thought the company would be around for at least another few years.

As soon as the news hit and ever since, we try to keep it light. We crowded into the HR manager’s office and pretended to ambush her the day after news got out. Then one coworker was diagnosed with lung cancer, and we cried some more when she left early because of the pain, but she found out she’ll be fine with chemo and radiation. Still awful but Thank God nonetheless.

Now the work is slowing down, we won’t have any more patients after the 29th, and the phone barely rings. Part of me has been done for weeks but another, much stronger part doesn’t want it all to change. I’ll never find a corporate atmosphere like the one I had here. This place was one of a kind.

After only having an idea of when my last day would be, I unexpectedly heard today that most of us are leaving next Friday, May 6th. Nothing really changed because that’s around when we expected to leave, but it’s different somehow. On Monday, May 9th I will wake up late and have nowhere to go after. Maybe it’s a good thing I only have to wait less than two weeks for my next knee surgery appointment.

I think I’ll focus on what my coworkers and I are ordering for lunch every day next week. We were big on our “lunch club,” sometimes asking each other if we “brought” at 9:30 in the morning. We’re ordering a little less now to save money but I want to have all my favorites one last time. Might as well go out with a bang, right?

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Ever hear Green Day’s “Basket Case”? It popped in my head when I started this blog.

“Do you have the time to listen to me whine
About nothing and everything all at once
I am one of those
Melodramatic fools
Neurotic to the bone
No doubt about it.”

I don’t want to be the kind of blogger who whines about nothing and everything all at once. My mom is a big fan of “finding the silver lining” and “things aren’t as bad as they seem,” so pair that with my natural inclination to look at issues objectively, I can’t wallow for too long. Yes, I wallow, and I freak, and I get all neurotic and obsessive when the situation calls for it. I’m also the typical jaded New Yorker who doesn’t really believe in happily ever after, more like enjoy-the-moment-when-you-can.

Oddly enough the combination of cynicism and open-mindedness carries me through the rough times. I’m aware enough to know that most other people have it worse than I do, or if not, they have problems that feel as bad as mine do. Plus, things that happen aren’t always all good or all bad, sometimes they’re just things you have to deal with before the next phase of your life can begin.

This has been one huge transition period, beginning with the car. It’s an almost-daily progression. Today I went into the city to meet with the surgeon for my knee operations. She said I need an MRI (scheduled after for May 10th) to determine which surgery I need. There’s the six-week-recovery ligament reconstruction, or the ligament reconstruction in addition to repositioning the bone around my knee cap. The second option requires six weeks of keeping all pressure off my knee and three months of caution, so I’m rooting for option one. Like, seriously rooting. Break out the pom-poms and pretend I can do a cartwheel kind of rooting.

The upside here is that I got more answers. I have a timeline of what’s going to happen now, pending surgical clearance. (That makes me nervous because you really never know what my genetic disorder – Velocardiofacial Syndrome – will come up with next.) If I only have to get the ligament surgery, I’ll be able to look for a job much sooner than expected.

That’ll be another round of frustration. Let’s not go there yet.

I never liked keeping journals. This always bugged me, because as a writer, I should have a journal. I should have dozens of notebooks filled with my life’s stories by now. Half a dozen blogs, even a LiveJournal later, nothing ever stuck. Maybe the moral here is my daily life doesn’t compare to fiction. Why write about myself when I can make up much more interesting characters?

That was true for a long while. Now, I can’t make this stuff up.

It’s all 2016’s fault. Everything was fine until – literally – New Year’s Day. I decided to buy a car. Why is this a big deal when I’m 27-years-old? Well, um, as a New Yorker, I got by for years without driving at all. I didn’t get my license until I was 24, and even then it must have been a belated Christmas miracle when the examiner passed me on December 26th that year. I’m talking like, an actual angel sitting next to me in the car and taking pity on my soul. I’m still not comfortable behind the wheel even though I’m now paying for the car and insurance every month. The plan was to practice constantly then bring it home from my aunt’s house, which is an hour away.

Let’s save that for another post.

Soon after, things started getting crazy at my job. Naturally, right? I finally buy a car and the big boss decides to retire? Oh yes, the company is closing after being in business for thirty years. I’ll be unemployed in a couple weeks tops, if that. Bright side here is I never would’ve bought the stupid car if I’d had any inkling of what was going on before I signed my life away. Also fortunately, that’s an exaggeration since I have enough savings to keep me going for a while. At the time I heard this I thought, well, unemployment sucks but at least I’ll have a car when I look for my new job.

Then I met with an orthopedic surgeon in March. This is also another post, but the highlights? I need two consecutive knee surgeries. My knees have always been bad and I wanted to get them fixed, but I thought it was just the one I didn’t have done ten years ago. Nope, both, one after the other.

So driving, and the new job, will have to wait until I’m all recovered in about six months.

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This blog was created out of desperation. If I write down some of my thoughts here, maybe they won’t turn over and over in my mind during the day.