Random Thoughts on the Blank Page

Pencils, writer's blockA bad case of writer’s block

I am a writer.

And at the moment, I am a writer with a deadline. Two, in fact, the most immediate one for a 10,000-word piece on classroom management. Piece of cake, right? I’ve been writing, speaking, and blogging about that topic— especially the stuff we do that makes things  worse— for decades. I can do this in my sleep. I don’t need to cite research. This is all in my head. I know exactly what needs to go in this thing.

I have a new document open in Pages, my word processor of choice. I have a blank spiral-ring notebook and my favorite pencils and pens because, yes, sometimes things come more easily and quickly when I scribble ideas and topics and thoughts by hand. I have a quiet, comfortable work space.

And yet… I am nowhere.

I’ve been at this long enough to know that the “first sentence” often comes midway into the writing process, sometimes even at the end. But I just want to get something— anything— down. Even garbage can be edited and revised. Even babbling is a start.

It’s rare for me to feel so… blank. Clearly, I’m unfocused and distracted. Maybe I just haven’t been home long enough to fully recharge from a physically and emotionally demanding stretch on the road that had me away from home for close to a month. But I’ve been home since the 8th, and although I scrambled to get all my stuff unpacked and put away quickly just so I could get to this project, that’s about as far as I’ve gotten.

I have taken some time off to just watch some of the shows Jerry recorded while we were away. To knit. To do laundry. I even made it to a Zumba class for the first time in way too long. I have  cleared my schedule between now and the end of the year to focus pretty much exclusively on these two books. Do I really need to keep reminding myself that I really do like to write? (Look! I’m writing right now. And this is kind of fun. See?)

In the meantime, I’m waiting for the lightbulb to come on. For the flash to hit me. To suddenly be in the flow where the words just come. I have even thought that maybe I just need to run off somewhere (even though I just got back) but I know that this space isn’t the problem: I’ve done some of my best work in noisy restaurants and airports, on planes and in a jet-lagged fog in my hotels (and even, back in the yellow-tablet days, at a campground on a rafting trip). The environment is just fine, thank you.

Perhaps I’m just not ready to write right this minute, or I probably wouldn’t be checking Facebook and email every five minutes (when I’m not playing some stupid time-suck of a game on my iPad), all the while tortured by  promises and commitments I’ve made. Entirely realistic and do-able deadlines, mind you, although the dates are creeping up a lot more quickly than I’d like.

So maybe I just needed to bitch and moan to clear my head a bit. I don’t know. I don’t get stuck very often, and I’ve almost never been intimidated by the blank page, although certain projects have taken longer than others to get the tone or feel I wanted. But this just feels different, and I’m hoping it’s very temporary, because at the moment, this block or stall or whatever you want to call it feels like it has nothing to do with the project itself. It’s just me, a weird exhaustion on a few too many levels to stay focused and coherent for any length of time.

And that’s even more scary in its own way.

Ugh. I’ll get there. I am committed to getting something down by tomorrow night, even if it’s only a half-baked example or a list of topics. This is something I know inside and out and I’m a little freaked out at drawing such a huge blank and apparently not currently capable of even a weak start.

Update: October 28, 2013

At 11:33 am today, I sent in a 10,250-word manuscript to ASCD. I have no idea why this was so hard to start, or why it took as long as it did to come together once I did, but I woke up this morning and was delighted to see that what I had was actually in pretty good shape. I went through it one more time, cleaned up a few rough spots, and sent in a not-half-bad document.

ASCD is a new publisher for me, but my editor knows my work from a project we did together before she left Corwin for this new job. So although she has a pretty good idea of what she’ll discover when she opens this document, it’s always a bit unnerving to wait for the publisher’s response. *sigh*

I would love to tell you that my writer’s block issues are resolved, but this process is a strange one, and I barely  have time to vacuum up the snack crumbs from this project before I have to launch into the next book (the one on perfectionism) after I squeeze in some time to put together the newsletter that should have gone out two weeks ago.

Onward…

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