My wife gave me an ultimatum.

“Either you look for help getting over your block or find a paying job.”

She’s tired of watching me lounge in sweats all day, nursing cold coffee. The ashtray’s disappeared under what appears to be Mt. Helen’s last eruption. With no activity on the computer, my monitor spends the day dozing in sleep mode and my keyboard’s powdered with dust. My pencils are gnawed through to the center and I’m hoping for inspiration before I die from lead poisoning. But…, doing what writers do, I procrastinate. I sneak out the back door and go for a walk. When I get to the corner, I slow my pace.  A group of people are standing at the entrance to a local church, smoking and chatting. There’s a sign on the door that reads:

WBAA

Writers Block-Addicted Anonymous

7:00 pm Daily

Basement Hall

Darn, whadda ya know. I can come here at night, avoid getting a real job and still be able to say I’m writing during the day. The wifey will agree I’m seeking help for my affliction. I follow the group through the door. When everyone signs in, the meeting commences by reading the program’s twelve steps. The moderator shares a few examples how writers acquire block-addiction.  The excuses are varied and certainly recognizable. Hell, I’ve used most of them. Excuse after excuse, followed by plausible solutions. He finishes with this statement.

“Excuses are caused by the real culprit—procrastination. Just one slip of this deadly vice and you’re off the wagon and on the road to block addiction.”

I watch while addict after addict takes the stage and tells his or her story of conquering their blocks by winning the battle over procrastination. When they’re finished, recognition chips for addiction-free days are awarded. Because this is my first meeting, I’ve been assigned a sponsor to guide me through the process. He encourages me to attend a two-week WBAA boot camp to jumpstart my efforts. He admits this is a cold turkey method, but insists recovery will happen at a speedier rate if I’m a boot camp graduate. I agree to start tomorrow morning and regret it immediately.  I should put it off until a later date. Much, much later date.

***

My sponsor whisks me off to camp early. I’m informed by the staff that outdoor exercise is closely related to thought production. We begin each day with a five-kilometer run. This torturous routine will be accompanied by a military-style chant while keeping time with the jogging pace. It sounds like this:

Writing’s not a hobby.

Writing’s work for men.

Stop procrastinating

And move that lazy pen

After we complete the run, we’re herded into a classroom and told to write or scribble ,continually moving our pens non-stop until letters form. Much later, a word starts to form– a sentence. I’m in shock. Am I on the verge of a break-through paragraph?

Tonight I swallow handfuls of pain pills and slather soothing lotion on my fingers. Unable to open my hand from the long hours scribbling,  I apply finger splints for my claw-like digits. They call this scribbling exercise mandatory-misery freewriting. I’m ready to promise two thousand written words a day for the remainder of my life if I can just go home.

*

Each day we’ve been working our way through the steps of the program.

Step #1. I admit I’m powerless over blocks – that my writing life has become unmanageable. (Heck, I have no problem with this one. I’m here, aren’t I?)

Step #2.  I believe that a power greater than my writing group will restore me to sanity. (Won’t take much to top the sanity level of MY writing group)

Step #3. I’ve made a decision to turn my pen and pencil over to the care of the author who currently is ranked #1 on the Best Seller list. (Sounds like a sensible thing to do-he must be a fat cat with a publishing contract making boatloads of moolah. I wonder if he’s been to the boot camp)

Step #4. I’ve made a searching and fearless inventory of all my old writings. (Now does this one make any sense? If I was writing anything, would I be here?)

Somehow I work my way through the remainder of the steps and complete the course. I’m about to re-enter the writing community with fresh ideas, determination, and permanently cramped fingers.

***

Well, here I am, my first meeting at WBAA since completing the boot camp and I’m bladder-busting nervous. My pencils are carefully arranged in my pocket like little soldiers in an upright stance so everyone will notice they’re well used and even need sharpening. I’m entering the auditorium full of hope for the first time in months. As the twelve steps are read aloud, I’m feeling a sense of pride and ownership for the block addiction I’m conquering. Okay, time to go. They’ve called my name. I step up to the podium and face the group, ready to tell the story of my journey to block freedom.

“Hi, I’m Pete and I’m a block-addicted writer. I’m writing again and clean from blocks for 30 days.”

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