Peter Shelton

Six Tips for Conquering Writer’s Block

Posted in Uncategorized by pshelton on June 7, 2012

Can’t come up with a column this week? Here are six sure-fire ways to break through the writer’s block and come up with ideas galore.

One: Head downstairs to the basement and wax your skis for summer storage. You left the skis out because there was always that chance someone would invite you up to Alaska for a late-season film shoot. But now that that seems unlikely, it’s time to get busy and put ‘em away.

Fill the dings in the base from that last sketchy day at Aspen Highlands when the rocks were hidden under a late-April coat of paint. Drip flaming P-tex into the gouges. Let P-tex puddles cool. Scrape smooth. Run your finger along the edges to detect burrs that need to be worked with the diamond stone. Run upstairs to get a Band-Aid for your finger. Select mystery yellow wax from the bottom of the box and iron into bases. With Pozidriv loosen the springs in the binding toe and heel pieces so they’re not wound tight all off-season. Reluctantly move skis to the storeroom.

Two: Read the story in The New Yorker about the American, William Morgan, a runaway kid from Ohio obsessed with magic tricks who went to Cuba in 1957 to join the revolution and became a Yankee Comandante in Castro’s army, and married a Cuban woman revolutionary (Hemingway, eat your heart out!) and was later recruited (maybe) by the CIA to organize an anti-Castro plot, which turned out to be a double-cross, which made him even more of a hero in Cuba, for a while, but he was executed by firing squad eventually anyway.

Phew! I mean this guy must have been some kind of charming, and fearless, and mercurial – or hollow – in ways that even his family never understood. His beautiful Cuban wife – she was his third, or fourth, I forget (he married his first in Reno 24 hours after they’d met on the train) – she loved him with a gran amor. She was imprisoned in Havana, too. But she drugged her guards with sleeping pills dissolved in hot chocolate and escaped, was caught again, beaten to the point of disfigurement, and eventually shipped out on the Mariel boatlift. J. Edgar Hoover was obsessed with Morgan, developed a huge dossier on him, but couldn’t figure him out either.

No column ideas there.

Three: Go for a walk on the hill behind the house. But first, because it’s the middle of the day, and pretty hot, slather your exposed areas with sunscreen. Work it into your ear wrinkles. Rub it through the stubble of your weekend beard. Make sure you get it around the back of your neck between the hairline and the line of your t-shirt.

This task will make you think of the man you once saw in Telluride scraping his windshield on a frosty winter morning. A fastidious man, he tackled the windscreen with unhurried precision. Then he scraped each of the side windows perfectly clean, edge-to-edge, deep in the corners, no white left anywhere. And the rear window the same. Then he did the taillights. And the headlights. And the grille. And the windshield wipers. And the side mirrors. Maybe he was trying to come up with a column idea.

Four: Search the bookshelves for your first-edition 1967 copy of On the Loose, by Terry and Renny Russell. Because at the Mountainfilm festival last weekend a friend introduced you to Renny Russell, the younger brother, now a leathery artist/curmudgeon, who had just completed his annual solo trip down the Green River in a wooden dory he built himself.

Renny was 19 and Terry 21 when the Sierra Club agreed to publish their book, which featured Renny’s beautiful calligraphy and quotes and photos and Whitman-esque reveries from their soulful, wildland wanderings.

Just before the book was to be released, the brothers took off on a celebratory float down the Green. Their boat flipped, and Terry drowned. On page 85, there is this: “Adventure is not in the guidebook and Beauty is not on the map.”

Five: Put Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks on the record player. Maybe there’s an idea there. “If I ventured in the slipstream / between the viaducts of your dream . . . Could you find me? / Would you kiss-a my eyes?”

Six: Get out the push mower and mow the lawn, even though it is patchy and drought hardened and has only a couple of green spots tall enough for the spinning blades to lop. Clockwise in a circle. Then counterclockwise. It takes only about a minute and a half. There is no resistance. Still, there are a few grass clippings stuck to your sandals. Carry the mower back to the shed.

Come in and have a nice dinner with your wife.

Give up.

Go to bed. Tomorrow is another day.

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One Response

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  1. The Sagehen Sheriff said, on June 8, 2012 at 3:37 am

    Peter:

    Overcoming Writers Block: The Literate Macho Approach in 5 Easy Steps. (Hemingway never thought of this one. . . even though it is clean and it is true)

    1. Obtain a 2″ x 2″ cube of light colored unpainted wood (e.g.) pine and sand to smooth without violating the critical 90 degree angles.

    2. Select the names of six writers known to you (personally or through having perused or absorbed their works).

    3. Using a Sharpie, write the name of one writer on each of the six faces of the wooden cube.

    4. Obtain a 12 lb. sledge hammer with a long handle

    5. Strike the 2″ x 2″ in cube with the sledge hammer several times (Note: While doing so you may shout things like “Ha!” or “Take That !” or “Have At You !”

    (Note: Best not to do this in public lest you wish to add performance art to your already abundant list of talents)

    I’m just sayin’

    The Sagehen Sheriff


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