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.

B.J.

Strive to be antique

Image by Darkmoon_Art from Pixabay

Strive to be antique.
Your value is already
considerable.

B.J.

A look inside

A streaky windshield refuses to be clean. Windows in the condo fog the view on sunny mornings, in sunsets hot or cold.

Dusty desert air makes windows in a new house look old, always dirty, dreary. Generic lens wipes and sprays and cloths leave smears and smudges and gloom.

Something is to blame.

Blurry view through a car windshield at night.
Pixabay image

Then surprise, a light comes on. Headlights dazzle in the night.

Look inside yourself. Is it the eyes? Is it?

There may be light. We shall see.

B.J.

Red’s a smart, fine-lookin’ dog

A few days ago my funny, clever, multitalented daughter asked if Red Dog had come up with any questions lately. I had to think for a minute; he hadn’t. Somewhat later – just today, actually – I realized why that was. Red and I haven’t had much trail time lately, just the two of us. (He never asks me anything when Mrs. Smith is around.)

With that in mind, Red and I set out this morning for a walk down by the Colorado River, which is still tryna freeze. The temperature was around 20F degrees when we started. Most of the ice I’d seen on Corn Lake in late January was gone. We went east for a mile or so on the river trail, then across a pedestrian bridge and up a steep, switchbacked cutout to the top of a bluff.

Trail down steep switchbacks by the Colorado River
Heading back down to the river.

Along the way, as if on cue, Red asked me why I spend so much time doing whatever it is I do on this computer or on the other one in my home office.

“Most of that is called earning a living so we can buy dog food and treats and .…” I stopped about there because I could tell by the cold stare that he got the point.

“I’m teasing you, Red,” I said. “Feeding you is a real bargain and we’re happy to do it. You’re family!”

He smiled at that, with those big brown eyes. We kept walking.

He’d asked a great question. I’ve seen many writers respond by saying things like “I can’t not write” and “because I must” and so on. My reasons are pretty simple to explain, at least when humans ask: My job is writing and editing.

I’m fortunate that people pay me to do that sort of thing. I didn’t try to explain that to Red, and I didn’t get into why I’m putting these particular words in this particular order right now, but that’s not complicated, either.

I do it because I enjoy doing it.

I do it because I enjoy doing it. I like making stuff up and I like writing true stuff. It doesn’t matter much if anyone reads this, but I do appreciate those who do.

Back to the walk, which was interrupted as almost every walk with Red Dog gets interrupted, sometimes more than once. Men on the trail never say much beyond hello, if that. But women…

This morning the woman walking toward us, with a guy I’d guess was her husband or partner or whatever, said with a big smile on her face, “Oh, you’re so cute! I’m gonna take you home with me!”

Red assumed she was talking to him, and I suspect he’s right. Nobody talks to me like that.

Write on,

B.J.

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.

B.J.