Writer's Block

12/8/2012 7:00 AM
By Troy Bishopp The Grass Whisperer

I can remember going to church suppers with my grandparents and, upon seeing their friends, they would discuss what ailments they had and the milligrams and scientific names of medicine that kept them going.

I thought it was quite funny at the time to hear, "I've got the gout," like it was a revered badge of courage to wear out in public.

Ironically, I'm suffering from an affliction not nearly as painful, which thankfully can be cured without high-powered drugs. Simply put, I've got the writer's block.

Writer's block is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession (or in my case, part time), in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity due to fear of failure, pushing yourself to do too much in too short of a time, lack of inspiration and, for me, pivotal physiological events and too many irons in the fire on the farm and at work to concentrate.

Thanks to a Google search, there are myriad solutions to overcome the writer's block. Among the therapies is to force yourself to write. This strategy suggests you write about any ideas or past experience just to get something down, and even consider writing about having writer's block.

Author Charles Bukowski noted, "Writing about a writer's block is better than not writing at all."

This will also help my wondering agricultural editors as to where the silence is coming from.

To equate me with a real writer whose published works don the New York Times or best-seller list would be off kilter. I'm just a casual free-lancer who happens to jot down what happens at an event and generate press for the organizations I work for, or an opinionated farmer/storyteller who is jaded with green-colored glasses, equating everything to the merits of grass-based systems and the folks who don't necessarily except my views.

Being more of a free-wheeling pleasure writer, I wouldn't expect to come down with such a mental block, but here it is in plain view for the doctors (readers) to see.

You may wonder how and when this affliction crept into my life and froze the keyboard. I believe it all started with the spring overload of work as I kept telling myself, "I'll get to writing this weekend," which hardly ever came. Then we had the marriage of my daughter, Lindsay, with all the work, festivities and family, and again I was thinking, "Boy, have I got some good inspiration," as the photos came back, along with the pretty green grass and cows. But it never materialized.

My mind-numbing condition was perpetuated by the inconceivable, tragic loss of Pennsylvania farmer Shon Seeley and the onset of the armyworms, coupled with being in a real drought. It was tapping my energy to share anything that would matter to anyone.

And lately, I've been busy working around the barnyard installing roof gutters and pouring concrete in an effort to thwart mud and provide better wintering facilities. The final straw of the block has been writing (into nausea) grants to help keep me employed at the conservation district as the budgets for my kind dwindle.

Basically I'm a little tapped out at the end of the day and looking for the easy chair instead of the prose. Is it my age? Is it my schedule and work-a-holic-ness? Have I reached the threshold of my ability? Is this the time in my life where I need to persevere like any good farmer worth his or her salt or fold up the notebook?

It's gonna be hard to put my two fingers to bed when folks are asking me to produce more words, presentations and photos, not less. But how? Like any good holistic thinker it's time to look at root causes for the writer's cramp and make some better decisions on time management to make this writing a pleasurable act again and not a chore.

I'll admit to you it's mostly an emotional human issue and not a mechanics problem (thanks Toastmasters), ’cause I have plenty of fodder and good stuff to weigh in on.

In getting back on track and keeping in good graces with Lancaster Farming<$>, I've put together some hypothetical titles to bring me back from the writer's block abyss. Topics include: surviving the drought using a grazing chart, marrying the farmer's daughter, constructing a wetland fen, farm caps, the grazier's library, yogurt economics, contract grazing and winter feeding strategies on pasture, to name a few. Hey, I just took the first step to recovery.

It certainly does help that the days are shorter and most grant RFP deadlines are over. The NFL season is winding down and the NHL won't be taking up much time, either. The cows are on full feed with a new tractor to move bales in less than an hour per day. My task now is to balance family time with this writing affliction during the holiday season.

I'm thankful to share this problem with you, which is helping me through this disorder. My earbuds are once again filled with the sounds of hard rock music, both fingers are accurate with spelling and the words are hitting Microsoft Word with a vengeance.

My wife knows I'm on the road to recovery by the lip-syncing coming from the office and her first editorial look-see in a long while.

I guess now I'll have something to contribute to the church's next turkey supper roundtable — how I conquered the writer's block.

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