Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"I Can't Think of Anything to Write About!"

A piece I wrote years ago
about "Friday Writing," published
in the English Journal, May 1976

On 5 October 2013 I did a post here about a class activity I used to do in my middle school teaching days (1966-1997)--an activity I initially called "Friday Writing" but later changed to "Free Writing" (because we didn't always do it on Fridays ... duh). (Link to that original post.)

It boiled down to this: Once a week we (I did it, too) would stop our regular activities and spend most of the period writing whatever we wanted (PG rating at most); the last ten minutes or so, volunteers would read aloud (I often read, too). The kids would then turn their papers in (requirement: one full page); I would mark them over the weekend (no official grades--just +, +/-, and -, the latter two invariably for not having a page of work--or for not taking the task seriously). And the next week, we would start over. The kids wrote all kinds of things (as that initial post will show you), and so did I.

But every now and then I would get this complaint: Mr. Dyer, I can't think of anything to write about! And my standard reply (somewhat snotty and facile, as I think about it in retrospect): Write about how it feels when you don't know what to write about.  Clever, eh?

Anyway, I find myself somewhat in that position today. Oh, I have things to write about--I have unfinished series here on my old boyhood dog, on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, on my adolescent crush on movie actress Valerie French.

But here's the problem. Since last Thursday I've been battling a vicious cold/infection that delights in draining virtually all of my energy, in clogging my nose, in giving me a low-grade temp, in tempting me to bed at just about any hour. I have had enough energy--barely--to keep up with my Facebook silliness (Daily Doggerel, etc.), with the reading I need to do for the Kirkus and Plain Dealer reviewing I'll be doing, even with the "recreational" reading I do in bed every day just before nightie-night.

But that is it. I haven't been able to go to the health club for my diurnal drudgery on the exercise bike. I haven't been able to walk to the coffee shop in the morning (I've driven those days I've felt well enough to do so--stayed home on other days). I haven't been able to go on our customary evening post-prandial drive to do errands and get a decaf Americano.* Most days, I've just stayed in the house--all day--and felt both lousy and sorry for myself. (It's a cliché--but obviously true--that many (most?) men are wimps about colds/infections.)

And--unthinkable--I could not go "out" on either Friday or Saturday evenings--no movies, no anything. We stayed home and watched DVRed episodes of Justified and Sleepy Hollow. We sat on the couch; I was the one with the sniffles, the groans, the profound self-pity, and the Pendleton blanket wrapped around him.

But today (Monday)? This morning, I woke up feeling a little better (congested ... but not sick; there's a difference), and so I've gotten more done today than usual--and just returned from a post-prandial drive for decaf. Picked a roasted chicken carcass when I got home (for sandwiches later this week). Wrote this post.

And never did get around to writing about what it's like to write when you can't think of anything to write about. Maybe another day ...

*Interesting: When I ran spell-check, it suggested I replace Americano with American no.

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