I sat on my couch at 11:00 PM trying to write something for this particular challenge. It is now midnight, and I've only come up with two sentences. You've just read them. I have a classic case of C.D. (Cranial Distress), and my brain is blocked. I'd better think hard...but nothing's coming other than how high the cable bill is this month.
Mind—wake up!! I'm watching a program about old cars...I'm getting old...that's it.
My first car was a 1946 Ford Coupe, with a Competition Orange paint job. It was—I thought—a chick magnet. My cousin and I decided to put a 426 Hemi engine in a space reserved for a Flathead-6. It worked just fine until we'd hit a pothole and then the front springs would fall out of the hangers...all over the road...all the time. A typical one mile trip would take us three days, ten gallons of gas and at least five “Oh Lord, please get me out of this mess...I'll never do this again.” In fact, that's the most commonly used phrase in a teenage boy's life, especially when alcohol is the issue. When I was a young man, I prayed a lot.
That chapter of my life made me think of Audrey, my first girlfriend, who came into my life after I sold that gem and bought a used and abused Cadillac. We were a month apart in age, went to the same school—both public and Sunday—and lived two blocks from each other.
She was a real beauty, or at least I thought she was, with auburn hair and one front tooth that jetted out a little. I told her once that whenever she smiled—even if she was eighty years old—she'd always look sixteen. She did not take that well, and eventually we drifted apart. I was inspired to write her a “love” letter, but that fell flat. My Mom did her best to console me, but...well...another chapter.
My mother was a good Christian woman and a real stickler for details, especially with the daily chores assigned to my brother and I. After hearing her bicker about my unkempt habits one Mother's Day, I felt motivated to write her a poem. It went:
“Violets are blue
and roses are red
Is it alright with you
if I don't make my bed?”
She laughed so hard she had to sit down, then got back up, gave me a hug and told me to go make my bed. My poetic career ended in a flash.
I could go on and on with the things and people that have moved me to write. I have blocked moments—and even days—where I can't think of a thing. Then suddenly a place, a person past or present, or a vivid remembrance will send me racing for my laptop. I don't hesitate, I just do it and clean it up later. But I'm not a writer by trade, so I've never had deadlines.
If you do, and have to write a personal interest column or story, I'd say study the people around you. Studs Terkel made quite a name for himself, and a good living too, by doing that. The average person has at least a half hour of interview in them that's just busting to escape, if only someone asks their opinion. Granted, you're not going to find an Einstein mopping floors at the office you may work at, but they have something to say, and in it they may give you the key. I love talking to people.
My kids say I could talk to a brick wall. I say yes, but if I don't get a conversation with it after five minutes, I move on to the next wall.
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