An Extreme Case of Writer’s Block

The Wine & Beer Bar at the Brier Creek Harris Teeter

I am currently suffering from what the Department of Words (DoW) calls a Writer’s Block. There are experts in the field of writing who say that such a concept does not exists, it is simply the right side of the brain procrastinating and the left side of the brain not being able to take charge. Whatever the reasons, I cannot get myself to sit down and process 150 pages of notes from the Yellowstone trip; the notes that I intend to turn into a widely read travel book contesting the century long popularity of The Travels of Marco Polo written by his prison mate Rustichello da Pisa. Practicing writers advise that the best cure for writer’s block is to simply write ever day and get into a habit of writing. A habit that as any other, if cultivated properly, will take over and rule its victim’s life. To one-up this sage advice, I turned to a 1998 edition of Time Management for the Creative Person, a book written by Lee Silber. It is worth noting that the year 1998 was before video on demand, podcasts, smart phones, Facebook, Instagram, and all the other wonderful means of pointless, useless, time-consuming entertainment became readily available. To maximize the value of the 1998 edition self-help book, I had to turn back time to before our world became perverted with these awful and wonderful time gobbling monstrosities. Luckily unplugging or reducing time in the mindless haze of cheap entertainment is at my finger-tips and somewhat doable.
The first part of the time management book offers a quick assessment to establish if the reader is right or left brained; I so love the simplicity of 1998. I scored 17 points on the left brain and 18 points on the right brain making me, I do declare, ambidextrous brained. If I was squarely in one camp and my problem was therefore clearly defined, I could search for a simple solution. Straggling the line between left and right brain makes a solid full-frontal attack somewhat of an issue and finding a solution is a much more difficult task.
Interestingly questions in the 1998 test that defined a right brained person are the questions that in 2022 are posed to sniff out ADHD adults.
Daydreaming is, (B) The best part on my day.
When it comes to time, (B) I never know what time it is …
When it comes to making decisions, (B) I postpone making a choice and change my mind often.
My workplace looks like, (B) Disneyland.
When it comes to remembering things I have to do, (B) What was the questions again?
When it comes to finding things, (B) I am constantly looking for keys, phone numbers, and so on.

Becoming aware of how these types of questions were used in 1998 and how they are used today gave me the freedom of going to the time gobbling monster called the Internet. I could allow myself this trip into the World Wide Web in the name of research and not as a mindless entertainment. The Inter-Web told me that the earliest references to an ADHD-like disorder date back to 1798 when mentioned by a Scottish doctor, Sir Alexander Crichton. Following is a more generally accepted date of 1902 when ADHD was mentioned by a British pediatrician Sir George Frederic Still. In 1954 a stimulant Ritalin was first marketed to treat fatigue and depression; Ritalin also showed to improve symptoms of ADHD. In 2002 the first non-stimulant medication was released. Based on ADHD history it is no wonder that in 1998 we could simply dump a bunch of disorganized, unfocused people into a right-brained bucket and move on.

I am not suspecting myself of having ADHD and therefore I cannot blame my writer’s block on an ADHD diagnosis, I need to dig deeper and even if I do not find a disease, I still need to find a cure. The book tells me that I need to “press my nose to the window of life” and the guild of practicing writers tells me to sit down and write something, anything. Taking this advice to heart and further procrastinating before starting the work on the 150-pages of my Yellowstone notes, I decided to sit down and write about yesterday’s lunch that I enjoyed at my local full-service grocery store, Harris Teeter.

The 64,000 sq feet Harris Teeter was built in the neighborhood of Brier Creek in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2017. The store follows the modern concept of the neighborhood grocery store: clean, bright, airy, with clearly defined departments. It is the type of place where the meat department employees make crafted pork sausages such as bratwurst, hot Sicilian, and sweet Italian. Next to the meat department there is a salad bar and hot food bar with both Asian and American home-cooked meal options.

But the main feature that attracts most people to the store is a wine and beer bar with local beers on tap. In this area the guests find comfortable bar and table sitting and an offering of daily specials. The day I happened to stop in was Wednesday, hump day, and the glasses of beer and wine were fifty percent off. I went to the salad bar and loaded a disposable paper box with lettuce spring mix, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and chopped red onions. I carefully placed a scoop of chicken salad in one corner of the box and a scoop of tuna salad in the opposite corner followed by a heap of feta cheese, a sprinkle of bacon bits and a shake of croutons. Bottles of dressing were the most difficult to navigate; they were all gooey and sticky; only the most skilled consumers can avoid minor dressing spills. Having my salad arranged and decorated, I proceeded to the wine and beer bar and ordered a glass of local Honeysuckle Wit beer ($2.50 per glass on Wednesdays). I paid for my items and positioned myself at a high-top table planning to eat, drink and read the Time Management for the Creative Person.

As soon as I got comfortable, I noticed an influx of elderly gentleman strolling into the bar area. They were getting their discounted beer and sitting at a long high-top table positioned next to me; they clearly knew the bartender and he knew them well. I realized that this was a local retired men’s club that met up every Wednesday at this Harris Teeter for a beer and a chat. I was still holding my book in front of my face but my ears tuned to their conversation.
One man, clearly new to the club said, “beer and no women around, there is nothing better.”
A man in pleated Dockers shorts and white New Balance shoes responded, “don’t forget that the beer is fifty percent off, that makes it better.”
Something stirred inside of me, I was mildly offended by their liberal affirmations about the greatness of life with cheap beer and no women; I felt dishearten. Was I sad for these retired men who are more satisfied with cheap beer than their women or was I feeling it more for the women who have to live with these sad men?
The men’s club table was filling up, there were about sixteen of them now and I could no longer distinguish individual conversations; it sounded like I was sitting next to the tower of Babel. I decided to get my stuff and move over to the proper bar sitting where in tranquility I could continue learning about time management for my creative self.
As soon as I sat down at the bar a random shopper stepped up; he was holding a vacuum sealed 15-lbs whole beef strip loin and a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) beer. He had a black ¾ open face motorcycle helmet hanging of his right elbow and slipping from under his left arm was a vacuum sealed 10-lbs strip of pork loin. The man was struggling to place all these items on the bar next to me, so I stood up and caught the pork loin before the package fell to the ground. The man thanked me politely. I sat back on my stool and in a sneaky one-eyed fashion examined him further. He was a middle-aged man with a leathery face reminiscent of a raisin; his arms and neck were covered with well-aged, fading, monochrome tattoos and there were two silver-loop earnings in his left ear.  He was wearing a black leather vest with all sorts of motorcycling patches advertising the Harley Davidson brand, acknowledging his veteran status, and in a name-tag like manner noting the man as Jokester which of course could not be his real name.
The man said to the bartender, “two PBRs please and a beer for the nice lady next to me who helped me if she would like another one.”
I replied with a smile, “Thank you, but since this is lunch, the one I am drinking is enough for me.”
“OK, but it would be my pleasure to buy you a beer.” He then turned and asked the bar tender to ring him up including all the items that he was purchasing. The two exchanged a pleasant conversation which implied that the biker man was a usual here and he and the bartender knew each other.
He then turned back to me and said, “people tend to be surprised how I can carry all this stuff on my motorcycle.”
I looked up at him from my Time Management for the Creative Person book and asked, “what motorcycle do you ride? Do you have saddle bags or under the seat storage?”
He replied, “she is a Harley Davidson, I just bungie the items to the back seat behind me and stuff everything else into my vest.” After a short pause he added, “I am John, but people call me Jokester.” He said as he pointed to the name-tag like patch on his black leather vest.
“Nice to meet you John, my name is Irena,” I replied.
John the Jokester continued, “if I would have an extra helmet, I would invite you for a ride.”
I was glad that he did not have an extra helmet because I would not accept a motorcycle ride from John but this way I didn’t need to decline. “That’s OK John, I ride my own motorcycle, but I appreciate the offer.”
I did not intend for my response to lead to a longer conversation but it did.
“You have a motorcycle? That’s spectacular. I like women who can ride their own ride. Every Sunday we ride out of the JMello bike shop. We ride somewhere, have lunch, and then go back. You should join us,” said John.
“Thank you for the invitation,” I replied right at the moment when John the Jokester’s phone rang; he answered the call.
“I am done in the grocery store and will be back in ten minutes.” John said to the person on the phone then looked back at me.
“John, it was nice to meet you,” I said to him acknowledging his imminent departure.
“It was nice to meet you, too,” John replied as he started gathering his items, “maybe I will have the pleasure of running into you again at this bar,” he added as he walked away.

I looked back at the Time Management for the Creative Person book and realized that it has been over an hour and a half since I came to this Harris Teeter bar and between observing the retired men’s club and conversing with John the Jokester not only did I not progress with processing the 150-pages of the Yellowstone notes but I also did not learn anything about time management. I no longer know if I am suffering from a writer’s block, poor time management, ADHD, or I am simply lazy, or living in the moment of constant experiences and interruptions that I cannot dismiss.

Note: There is no such thing as the Department of Words (DoW) and I hope the cure to my writer’s block is not to be locked in a prison cell with a better writer than I am.

Harris Teeter, Brier Creek, North Carolina
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