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Blocking the Notion of Blocking

At the On the Same Page Literary Festival last fall here in Ashe County, Jill McCorkle told us about the box she keeps in her office. It's her writing stash. The clips and drips of thought that might someday turn into stories - even novels - she deposits in a box of idea treasures. It's her hedge against writers block. If her ever-cogitating mind goes temporarily dull on her, she can reach in there and pull out the beginnings of something.

What a great idea, right? I went home and got me one, too. It's sitting on my desk right now. It's got a few snippets, clips, pieces of mail inside. And it might well contain the germ of something wonderful. But for now...well, it's kind of a dud for me. Of course, it's silly to expect to conjure McCorkle-esque magic willy-nilly. But I think the whole exercise has learned me something I didn't expect to know anyway.

McCorkle's magic is a way to deal with writer's block -- that nasty state of mind that defies one's desire to put words on paper, to start something new, to really be excited about something you're working on.

I'm not treating the right disease.

Ideas I got. They are flopping around in my pea brain like cod on the deck of the fishing vessel Northwestern. They wake me up during the night, clamoring for attention: Write about me! Write about this! Why aren't you taking notes, writing a draft, sending me off?

How is your writing going, Chris?

Oh, the dreaded question, followed quickly by the long pause, the sad-ass face, the excuses that are oh-so-easy to understand but really so utterly useless.

It seems without a deadline, a due date, a looming semester's end, I am powerless to do that which all writers must do, which is to put my ass in the seat and do it.

But, enough of this. I have to write something by next Saturday, suitable to read out loud and share with my family and friends in the audience. I'll be standing in the exact same spot as Jill McCorkle was last fall when she told us about the idea box.

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