The mysterious case of the disappearing blogAug 16th, 2013 | By Friends & Neighbors | Category: Bateman's Blog
I’m supposed to be guest speaker at the Sonora Writers Retreat, a late September gathering of local authors and poets.
Trouble is, until today I hadn’t written a thing for months. What’s more, I’ve actually enjoyed this unforced, voluntary vacation from keyboards, deadlines and anything remotely resembling creativity.
Writer’s block? Hardly – nothing is blocking me from writing. No angst or demons, no moral dilemmas or identity crises, no self doubts or tortured intellectual paralysis. I just don’t want to do it.
I’d rather ride my bike, rattle across the country on Amtrak, hang at home or have dinner with my wife. Heck, I’d rather haul trash to the dump or vacuum the living room. And I especially like reading stuff by writers that are more talented and, obviously, way more energetic than I am.
Bottom line: As my Writers Retreat moment in the sun approaches, I’ve retreated from writing.
Which can’t amuse Blanche Abrams of the event-sponsoring Tuolumne Writers Group. She’s the one that recruited me for the speaker’s job despite qualifications that were sketchy even before I quit writing.
I’m not an author and, unlike hundreds of more ambitious writers, I’ve never attempted the Great American Novel. I have, however, occasionally contemplated taking a crack at the Great American Sentence. I think my first word might be “Suddenly.”
I have an English-major son who pens verse and once considered seeking a graduate degree in poetry. But me? I’ve never written as much as an advertising jingle or off-color limerick.
Instead I spent a career as a daily newspaper journalist, cranking out tens of thousands of column-inches on interminable planning commission and water district meetings. In lengthy Union Democrat pieces, I delved deeply into the labyrinthine politics and stultifying technical details of landfills and sewer plants. My collected works make a day in the life of a tree sloth look like a Bond movie.
My claim to notoriety was a weekly column I wrote for nearly 20 years. But even that amounted to piece work. Give me 18 inches every Friday, said the publisher, and I’ll keep you off food stamps.
And if I pulled this no-writing stunt when I worked for The Democrat, I would have been shown the door much faster than breaking news. I might as well have been a ditch digger claiming “excavator’s block.”
But I retired from the paper more than two years ago and am now a blogger, which is an occupation anyone can claim. The downside is that the job pays nothing. The upside is that you can quit writing for weeks on end and you won’t get fired, because you don’t have a boss.
As I wrote in my very first post, “I might file something next Tuesday, but I might not.”
Now I’ve missed about a dozen Tuesdays in a row and my wispy writing credentials are on the verge of evaporating altogether – which doesn’t bother me. But, I’ve occasionally wondered late at night, what about my followers?
So some weeks ago I decided to I wait for some sort of outcry from among my dozen or so loyal readers. Once this mandate was delivered, I would promptly resume writing. I was in the midst of this long and lonely vigil – think of a meadow where even the crickets have fallen asleep – when inspiration struck.
It came from retired Tuolumne County librarian Connie Corcoran, who, one would have to assume, is actually literate. Connie saw an ad for my blog on the back of a county transit bus – blame my wife, who at least threw me onto the exterior of a bus instead of under it – and just recently began reading my online offerings from the beginning, which was last fall.
“I’m savoring each post in a gradual catching-up adventure,” she emailed me earlier this month.
But unless I crank out something new pronto, Connie will find she has followed that festooned transit bus down a dead-end road. And Blanche Abrams will learn that the guy she recruited to speak at the September retreat is full of bull.
Of course, being a writer and being full of it are not at all mutually exclusive.
With the above in mind, I’m beginning a campaign to rehabilitate my credentials. Over the next few weeks, you can look for more contributions in this space.
But you might not find them. I might be too busy agonizing over the second or third words of the Great American Sentence. Or hauling trash to the dump.
Chris Bateman, 67, is a journalist based in Sonora, California, where over the past 40 years he has covered everything under the Sierra Nevada sun. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or better yet, comment below.
Copyright 2013, Friends and Neighbors Magazine