It happened one Sunday, Super Bowl Sunday to be exact. The day coincided with my mom’s birthday: she passed in 1999.
Sunday is the day I post my blogs—I had nothing. A few seemingly viable ideas, but they were all kindling lacking a spark. I paced, drank a couple extra cups of coffee, talked with my wife. Nothing worked.
I went to the park, a place of solitude that usually calms me and opens the word wellspring. A raucous family interrupted the peace I yearned for, and scowling, I left. I drove through winding tree-lined country roads, got out a couple times and stood listening to song birds and the river gurgling its way to the sea. At least I still appreciated the simple and beautiful things the world offered.
I had nothing to say. A vague idea for a new story crept into my thoughts: a character, a setting, and a problem. I didn’t write it down, and strangely, found not writing too easy.
I preach writing every day; usually I’m at my keyboard at least a couple hours, seven days a week. For some reason, writing did not interest me, a lack of will perhaps.
I justified my dull head with the acknowledgment that I was simply on vacation. Everybody takes vacations, right? I knew the problem wasn’t the dreaded and mythical Writer’s Block—ideas did not wane—but I just didn’t care enough to write them down.
I interviewed myself, much like I question my characters during development. I thought I might find the self-loathing all writers face—I’m not good enough, the writing sucks, who cares what I have to say—but that wasn’t it. I’m a realist, and although I’m no Dickens, Twain, or Rowling, I’m a competent writer (I glanced at my short story and the copy of the check hanging on the wall to prove it), so it wasn’t the Black Funk I’ve written about in the past.
I answered the interview questions honestly (I’m not self-delusional, you see), and I realized something: I was the recipient of too much information, input overload from the outside world.
News, direction, instruction, suggestions, offerings, warnings, hyperbole, and a litany of other bombardments accosted me a hundred, a thousand times a day.
Yes, I needed a vacation, but not from writing—I needed to stop the incessant negativity the “news” and world of “celebrity” provided. I do not search this information, but it’s there every time I open my browser, my email, talk to people at the store or pub or while on a walk.
I’m normally pretty good at ignoring the chaos, but there must have been a nick in my armor, and like a mosquito or tick that attaches to the only skin available, I was bit.
I thanked myself for the honest conversation and made a decision: no media for a week.
No TV is easy since we don’t have any form of cable, check. My phone is a flip, so no fear of going online there, check. Fulfillment of the next choice, the internet, proved not so easy: the Twit continued to blame everybody else, mayhem in the streets, no-talents making a fortune pushing their own brand of self-love, all the horrors that may happen, on and on.
This is what I decided to salvage my sanity: check email once a day, no earlier than the afternoon after writing during the morning, that’s it. Today I had to go online to post this blog, but that’s okay. I may have to disconnect my modem to assure that I don’t search for information I need for a project, but that’s easy enough.
The world is a rush of noise, which for the most part should not affect me and usually does not. I have discovered that I am vulnerable, however, and that knowledge gives me the ability to make decisions to offset the impact.
This week I will write and read a great deal, and those are two of my favorite things to do.
If you feel inundated and overwhelmed by the maelstrom (whether real or not, mostly not), take a break. Shut down the “little brother” that deceives and manipulates the human psyche, the circus barker or potion salesmen that offers happiness out of a bottle, tube, screen, or monitor.
It’ll be like a vacation.
See you on the next page,
“There are many more people who do not write yet feel perfectly at ease sniping at those who do. When such a snipe comes your way, remind yourself that you are the one putting yourself on the line, opening a vein, walking the tightrope, singing a solo under hot lights. You are part of a courageous bunch who are all about doing.” — James Scott Bell
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