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Staring at a blank screen

By: Jeremy D. Wells

Carter County Times

When I was a kid, I got in trouble with my fourth grade teacher for not taking a journal writing exercise seriously. It wasn’t that I was a bad writer. It wasn’t even that I disliked writing. It was that she had put me on the spot with the assignment – to write on whatever I wanted to write about – and I experienced the first bout of writer’s block I can remember.

Because of that, and being a nine-year-old brat, I decided to write about how stupid it was to make someone write without telling them what to write about, and how I just didn’t really want to do it. I believe I also wrote something along the lines of, “since I don’t want to do this, I’m just going to take up space by drawing a deer.” Then I proceeded to do just that.

I thought it was a clever use of the page in what I saw as a non-assignment. Ms. Lou Ann
Timberlake did not.

Ms. Timberlake – an amazing teacher who really encouraged my talent for writing despite my indolence – came to mind this week as I sat here staring at a blank page trying to figure out what I should write my column on.

I sometimes get ideas as I’m driving around the county for things I can or should write about. Last Wednesday I came up with three or four ideas, at least, driving between Rush and Smoky Valley the long way round. But I could only remember one when I sat down to the keyboard, and it was way more heady than I was ready to tackle on a Monday afternoon with a deadline dangling over my head.

Writing about writing, though? It’s the kind of things writers – especially slam poets it seems – do all the time. Ironically, it’s also one of my biggest literary pet peeves. I’ve seen poets anthropomorphize their pens, the ink, the page, and their journals. None of it has ever been compelling to me.

I have seen some good pieces on how writing has changed a person’s life – but that’s more about the life than the writing, or at least as much about.

I’m told there are good tomes on writing out there. I’ve heard rave reviews of Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft,” and perhaps someday I’ll read it. If anyone could make writing about writing compelling, it would be King.

For the most part, however, I prefer to write toward (and read about) some specific purpose, rather than the – to me – self-indulgent task of writing about writing.

I didn’t like it 38 years ago, and I don’t like it now.

Still, as I sit here trying to fill a blank screen, I can’t help but wonder how Ms. Timberlake would grade this one. (I think I’ll throw a deer in the online art, just for continuity’s sake.)

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com



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