Writing, blocks and deadlines

I caught part of an interesting discussion on The Content Wrangler the other day about technical writer’s block. As something of a writer’s block skeptic, I was reminded (again) about the importance of defining terms.

A highlight for me in Overcoming Technical Writer’s Block was host Scott Abel’s perspective on having to meet deadlines when he worked as a journalist. As another guy whose writing career started at a daily newspaper, I could relate. Writer’s block? A reporter who can’t meet deadlines probably isn’t a reporter for very long. I think the same applies to other writers who need to finish assignments on time.

Another type of block. Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

I’ve read various takes on writer’s block and accept it is a real thing in people’s lives, but it can mean quite different things in different circumstances. Much depends on how you define the words you use. Take what you mean by writing and deadline, for example. Here’s what those terms mean here at The Smith Compound:

Writing – A process for creating prose, poetry or another collection of words for any purpose. It is not an act. The writing process begins with an idea. In the news business, it often begins with an assignment to be finished by a deadline. Gathering information is part of the writing process. Figuring out how to tell a story is part of the process, too, whether the writer is hiking in the forest or fishing or riding a bicycle. Sitting in front of a computer screen or other device to put words in a certain order is part of the process. Doing any of those things while struggling to come up with an idea of what to write may indicate the existence of writer’s block.

Deadline – An unmovable target for completion of a project, writing or otherwise. If the target date can be changed, it might be a goal – or a suggestion, or maybe wishful thinking – but it isn’t a deadline. There are consequences for missing deadlines.

Write on, my friends.


Storysinger: Almost anything for love

Standing here at the high bar separating kitchen from dining area from living room, I’m listening to the greatest hits of the recently deceased Marvin Lee Aday, known to most as Meat Loaf.

Alas, I have not a single device now that plays CDs, but YouTube will do for today and maybe a few more days, and then for occasional replays as time goes on.

As I do this, I’m mostly ignoring the reports about how Covid anti-mask stubbornness might have killed him. Instead, I’m remembering him as the storysinger he was and the hundreds of miles I’ve driven over the years with Bat Out of Hell and Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell blasting on the CD player.

I almost called Marvin a storyteller, but since he was much more performer and singer, storysinger seems appropriate even if my spellchecker doesn’t like it. Every song was a story.

Mrs. Smith asked yesterday what it was that the singer “won’t do” in the story called I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That). I didn’t remember all the specifics, but it wasn’t just a single thing and it wasn’t the mystery some reviewers and others made it out to be. I went back and listened carefully. You can do that or just skim through the lyrics.

There were many things he wouldn’t do.

To say that I’m in mourning would be a great overstatement. I didn’t know him and there have been too many others to mourn. As I enjoy the music playing on my laptop, however, I’m saddened by two things.

One is that when we had tickets back in the day to see Meat Loaf in Cedar Rapids, I was too sick with a cold or the flu or whatever it was when the big day arrived. Mrs. Smith took our friend Rita in my place. I’m told they had a good time.

I’m also saddened by having to wonder if the first-person lead in one of my favorite rock performances might have been willing to do almost anything for love except wear a mask when it most counted.



Monsters in disguise
hide inside their cowardice,
behind loaded guns.

Pixabay image

Red Dog asks: What’s a Boebert?

Red Dog Smith is obviously watching too much news lately, or somehow absorbing it through our befouled political atmosphere here in Mesa County or maybe he has his own Twitter account and I just haven’t found it yet.

I try to be honest with him and tell him what I do and don’t know on any topic he’s curious about, so I gave it my best shot when he asked me the other day in his endearing, innocent canine way, “What’s a Boebert?”

Image by Daniel Roberts from Pixabay

“I honestly don’t know for sure what a Boebert is,” I said. “My impression, based on the behavior of one individual who pretends to represent a large portion of the state of Colorado in the U.S. House of Representatives, is that a Boebert is someone who says all kinds of nasty, hateful things about other people in order to get attention, applause and money.”

He gave me that look, the one I get when I’ve either talked too fast or mumbled semi-coherently.

“You heard me correctly,” I said. “I don’t know for sure what a Boebert is, hard as that is to believe.”

The next look was the I’m sorry I asked look, which I get from both Red and Mrs. Smith on occasion.

“Okay, Red,” I said. “I’ll keep it short. Since you asked, here’s what some people have said on the Boebert question recently.”

A “proudly uneducated person” – @RonFilipkowski, former Republican

Someone who says “cruel, false, and bigoted things” – @KyleClark, Colorado journalist

Something that is “only going to get worse” – Mother Jones

A dangerous, toxic person – @bjsmith

Red growled at me about then. Clearly he’d heard enough.

“I get the picture,” he said.

“Not a pretty one, is it?”

“Nope, not a pretty picture,” he said.

If your own dog has questions, please share them here and we’ll do our best to answer them.


Explaining a horse to Red Dog

Red Dog asked me about horses not long ago. Maybe you read about that. Here’s how I answered him.

“A horse is a large, four-legged creature,” I said. “Sometimes they’re very large, way bigger than you.”

“Bigger than you?” Red asked.

“Most of them, sure. You’ve seen a lot of them. Remember we’d walk down that road to the ponds and you’d bark at them? Chased them once?”

He nodded. “So those were horses.”

“Yeah, I told you that back then.”

“Right. Now I remember. Piles of horse shit everywhere.”

“Good boy, Red,” I said, giving him a little pat on the head. “And that’s why…”

“You never let a horse in the house! They’ll crap anywhere.”

“Good memory, Red! You can’t housebreak a horse.”

Red’s a good boy. And the horse crap is still on the river trail.