The Writing Room: Am I Stuck? Or Am I Just Taking a Little Housekeeping Break?

Writers and Readers: Check out this oldie but goodie

from the Writing Room archives . . . and keep me company

down below as I wonder, “Am I stuck?”


The Writing Room: Writer’s Block and the Toxic Reader

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Am I stuck as a writer? Apparently I wasn’t having much trouble settling down to write back in 2009, when I wrote a brave post called “The Writing Room: Writer’s Block and the Toxic Reader” in which I boasted that I was not

Am I stuck as a writer? I'd rather watch the asphalt crew at work filling in gutter in front of my house. Photo by Barbara Newhall

An asphalt crew was hard at work yesterday filling in the gutter in front of our house. Photo by Barbara Newhall

plagued by writer’s block as I worked on my book, “Wrestling with God.”

The writing life at the time was going along swimmingly. But  nowadays I’m finding that sitting down to a blank laptop screen to await writerly inspiration is not all that much fun.

I’d rather be doing a little housekeeping — vacuum the lint from the back of the dryer, maybe. Or head outdoors to watch the paving crew blacktop the crumbling gutter outside our front gate. Very satisfying that.

Am I stuck as a writer? I'd rather figure out how to rescue the failing play yard carved out of a hillside with a Monterey pine supporting it. Photo by Barbara Newhall

The small, flat play area in our back yard — with Monterey pine and bay laurels. Photo by Barbara Newhall

I’d rather put on my mud shoes and climb down the hairy, steep slope behind our house to check on our Monterey pine. That big old tree, which shades a stand of rangy bay laurels, is well past its prime. It’s tilting precariously downhill, and that’s a worry: last winter’s rains washed out an adjacent retaining wall and that tree is all that’s keeping our little flat play yard, dug into the hillside years ago, from washing into the canyon.

As I clamber back up the hill, resolving to hire a landscape contractor asap, important work that, I ponder my next writing effort. What shall it be? Should I turn my Oakland Tribune columns into a “mommy-blogger” book? Should I research my mysterious three-times great-grandmother? Family lore has it she was “half Indian,” but the census records are clear: my “Indian” ancestor was born in Holland.

Or should I keep on writing about bay laurel trees, and Monterey pines and play yards sliding inexorably downhill? I dunno. Am I stuck?

Am I stuck as a writer? I'd rather think about our Monterey pine tilting downhill while helping to support a terraced play yard. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Our Monterey pine is heading downhill, and so is the retaining wall that’s holding up our kids’ once-upon-a-time play yard. Photo by Barbara Newhall


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