Writer’s Block in Paradise

Is it writer’s block or am I just lazy?

My excuse reason to come to Fortaleza was to find eternal summer and rediscover the sense of adventure I had lost somewhere write Altruists Anonymous, a book made up of a series of journals and How To stories from working in unofficial, grassroots charities. The problem is that while I’ve had amazing stories as an interpreter at a refugee camp, volunteering at several locally run organizations in the global south, and being a Real Life SuperHero, I’m not a good writer. I’ve been told being a good writer is important when writing a good book.

So I read. I read books by good writers and bad writers, analyzing the language and deciding which techniques I will adopt (show instead of saying, foreshadow and tease major events, and kill all adverbs). Then, I watch movies. Good storytellers from any medium are good storytellers, right? I convince myself I’ll absorb their character development techniques. I tell myself I’m studying and not procrastinating.

I stop studying and open my work. I’m halfway done with the first draft, which means I’m now writing the unfun half. Today’s chapter is about DIY networking and how to turn free comic book day swag into hygiene kits and holiday gifts for dozens of people. I’m not ready to charge into a sloppy chapter about trading ten pounds of donated comic books to a children’s shelter for hygiene supplies to give to the homeless, so I find an excuse: I need Stephanie’s input. Stephanie was an irreplaceable part of the supply chain. So I email Stephanie and decide while I’m waiting for her email I’ll write about my first weeks as a Real Life SuperHero when nobody knew or cared about what I was doing. But before that I need Irene’s permission to use a newspaper article she wrote about me; Irene gives me a thumbs up but gives me contact info for the head editor at Tucson Weekly, who I will have to email before using any of the material I wrote for them.

vamos explorarI could do a little bit of writing while waiting for the replies, but first I need to get my computer working. An old computer got fried last time I was in Brazil so I make sure I’m never using this computer while it charges, which lets me write for about three hours at a time. Before that though I need to change a Calvin and Hobbes tattoo design from English to Portuguese. Will I get the tattoo? Probably not, but I need the design just in case.

Once the computer is charged I decide to send out another round of emails so I won’t be slowed down later. I contact Eric, about his organization in a Kenyan slum and his experiences working with me; Rebecca, about her lasting memories arranging for volunteers at a medical center on Lesbos Island; and Dave, about his experience of being my alter ego’s sidekick. I convince myself that as soon as they get back to me, I’ll get back to writing.

In the meantime, I’ve figured out exactly which waves I can swim over without the ocean swallowing me, as well as how many stories of stairs I can run— twelve— without collapsing after my hot, humid morning run. I’ve made Brazilian friends and learned some of their cooking, also learning that I am very bad at cooking. I’m not going to stop exercising or meeting people just to sit behind a computer, am I? Of course not. I’ll get more done next week.

Next week.

Next week I’ll have the right permissions, get my computer functioning completely, and have everything I need to write. Next week I’ll beat writers block.

It’s always next week.

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