San Francisco, tuesday morning coffee, writing, Writing Blind

Tuesday Morning Coffee: Writer’s Block

The fog is thick this morning, I can feel its weight as it washes over the hills and pours in from the sea. The tops of the trees in the distance look washed out, underexposed, the fog blurring their edges and turning them so dark that they’re only green because I know they should be green.

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Not my exact view. Replace the bridge with a Safeway, though, and it’s pretty close.

I sit down to write, accidentally spending ten minutes writing on the page that happened to be open when I opened my computer—a sticky transition in my novel that I’m trying to write through rather than think through—before I remembered that Tuesday is blog day. So I launch a blank window and stare at the blinking cursor.

Rather, I stare out the window.

Here is the old man who comes to Safeway every Tuesday morning in his red sedan, which takes him about ten minutes to park (he even got it straight and even within the lines today). He wears a uniform of light blue jeans and a faded gray hoodie. I would say he is the fog, personified, except he hobbles with a cane while the fog seethes and rolls and tumbles.

I sit down to write, realizing too late I didn’t think at all this week about what I want to write about. What am I mulling over that won’t be resolved until I write about it, what have I seen that isn’t real until I write about it?

Here is a man—I could not tell until he turned and I saw his profile—in a black jacket and olive green hat pulled low over his face, leaning against the side of the building, fumbling with something in his hands. A cigarette? It is not clear, and he stands straight and puts his hands in his pockets and walks away.

I do not think the absence of a something concrete to write about means I’ve done an especially stellar job of mindfully processing as I go the past week. I’d like to think I’m always getting better, but I’m really not convinced I don’t have anything on my mind. I just can’t tap into it right now.

Is this what writer’s block is—not feeling stuck but feeling tapped out? Feeling like there is nothing to say or nothing worth saying and even if I wanted to say it, it would come out like crap, anyway, so why even bother?

(Yes, I have been reading Anne Lamott.)

The man in the black jacket is back, now squatting against the wall reading the newsprint mailer that Safeway still piles at the front of the store for shoppers peruse for the greatest deals. As if the glaring yellow tags along the shelves aren’t enough. The concept of these mailers seems quaint and outdated to me, perhaps I’m just surprised that there is at least one thing that hasn’t been outdone by an app.

This is what writing is, perhaps. Ebbs and flows of words and doubts, filling the cracks in my brain, first like the fog and then like the sun. Even on the foggy days, with my thoughts seemingly muted and words refusing to crawl out of bed, I can slowly coax them to life by starting with what is in front of me. The fog. The characters. The pigeons puttering around the parking lot looking for food or at least something edible. A crow preaching. A seagull bellowing.

And for today, that is enough.

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