How to crack writer’s block

hobo02.jpg picture by pemerytx

Photo Coal Train Graff © thosalumpagus

Click play for some coaltrain while you read, Blue Train Coltrane, that is…


First you whine and piss and moan about your sorry condition to everyone within earshot until the word gets around and folks avoid you and even your closest friends tell you to go fuck yourself.  Now, with only yourself to complain to, you see what they all mean.  You’re getting on your own nerves.  And since every worthwhile thing you ever thought you had to say has up and left your brain, your nerves are jangling and clanging inside your head like a multitude of railroad crossing bells going off in an empty warehouse.  Even though you’re not sure how to live now that you can’t write, you do know that you don’t want to live like this.  The nerves must be deadened, no question.  You must either find drugs or alcohol.

You snap into action and action feels good.  At least you’re on a mission.  You find nothing but Nexium, Zelnorm, and Nitrofurantoin in the house so you begin to take inventory of all possible sources of alcohol.  Even though you know the two bottles of rum—the Old Boston Virgin Islands and the Bacardi—in the dining room cabinet have been there for at least seven years, you make a mental note for later.  Same thing with the leftover Penguin Shiraz that gave you a ferocious headache—you make a note.  There’s more ice cold Bud in the mini-fridge downstairs than you thought.  This is good.  Even better, you remember there’s a case of it, warm, in the garage next to the lawnmower.  You’re going to need refrigerator space, which means you’d better indulge in the numbing bliss of a few of the cold beers right away.  You can be tossing out passé food in the upstairs refrigerator in between swigs.

You’re on your knees in front of the fridge feeling no pain, sniffing containers of fuzzy food and giggling and gagging when your boyfriend calls.  He’s brilliant, begins by asking, “Are you still in a pissy mood?”

          “Since you put it that way…” you slur.

          “Are you drunk?” he asks.


          Then he yells into the phone something about rehab and psychological instability and inability to deal with normal everyday problems without drowning in alcohol and he’s fed up with this whole mess and it’s over and he hangs up.  You shrug and go back to your refrigerator project.

          The next day you wake up and your head is throbbing so badly that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to be dead.  You look at the clock.  Shit!  What ever happened to the alarm?!  You scramble to get out of bed, get tangled in the sheets, fall smack onto the floor.  You can hear the dog, still on the bed, laughing his furry ass off.

“Forget it, just call in sick,” you think you hear him say.  “Take me for a walk, why doncha!  Grab your flask and let’s go!”

“Yeah, alright, that sounds good,” you mumble into the carpet.  “Just let me get some Aleve and I’ll be right with ya.”

You do this a few more days of drinking and soon you lose your job.  You have no job, no boyfriend, no money to pay rent or buy more of the bourbon you’ve found works stupendously, far more efficiently than beer.  You get kicked out of your house.  You learn the ways of the homeless, get bored, decide to travel, to do something with your life.  So you join the hobo set, hop freight trains coast to coast for a few years.  And being one who has the tendency to want to write things down, you’ve filled a few little ratty notebooks with all your adventures, keep them with you in your beat rucksack.

          Then one night when you’re sitting in the dirt with your dog and Manny and Denver Joe leaned up against a bridge headwall and you’re drinking a bagful of some rotgut that Joe’s got the grace to share, and you’re looking across the tracks at the falling sun pricking up points into the gray clouds and gilding their undersides, it sets down onto your mind to make something nearly as beautiful out of all those notes you made.  Why now, after all these years, you don’t know but you know it doesn’t matter.  There’s no stopping it sinking down into your head all golden and hot, down through your scalp, skull, bones and muscles and tissues, and on down into your gut, a glowing ball stuck in your gut, burning so bad you just want to belch it out.  And that’d be sure cause for concern but for the fact that you see a vast coolness of midnight lavender chasing down the grey onto the fiery orange and yellow of the downed sun, and you’re feeling nothing but lyrical and timeless and rolling with chaos, letting it roll you good.


hobo01.jpg picture by pemerytx

Give me one reason to keep writing for you




“Coal Train Graff”

from thosalumpagus’ photostream at


Hobo train sunset from



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Click here for more on prompt “#171 – Indulgence” from other Sunday Scribblings participants.

24 responses to “How to crack writer’s block

    LOL! Real as I get…whatever real is!
    Sorry about that wagon man, but I sure am glad for the company ; )

  2. There’s nuthiin’ better than a night with rotgut and ragtag hobos to kill the writers’ block while stirring career thoughts! You’re one fine story teller!

    Yup, just a little of that will shift your whole paradigm! Gonna stumble to bed laughing now. And when I visit you tomorrow, I’ll be sure to bring the rotgut ; )

  4. Well you didn’t call me! I’d have ruined all that cross country inspiration because I would have poured out the booze, tossed the dog off the bed, slapped you around and thrown you in the shower with your clothes on and half drowned you, called your boss and made up some monumental tale about family emergency and guilted him into holding your job, beat up the boyfriend and explained to you why he wasn’t good enough, sat you down with notebook and pen. Then you would have been clean, sober, employed, and housed but you wouldn’t have had this gem so what the hell do I know???
    Been missing you – glad you’re back

  5. Damn, woman, you’ve put my feeble attempts to shame. This is just so complete, so raw, so fucking good. OK, now I’m headed to the liquor cabinet.

    Ah, no… Didn’t know about it…but then, it’s not like I’m looking… Just checked it out now and it does look very cool, so I’m really glad you let me know. It’s definitely going to be kicking around my warehouse head now, and it sure would be nice if something fell off one of the shelves… Hey, what about you? Didya or are y’gonna?

    LOL! I like that attitude, respect the heck out of it, was an all-out believer in that kind of git’r done most of my years! It doesn’t work on me anymore, though. It tired me out. Now I just don’t care about yankin’ on those bootstraps anymore. Glad you missed me, anyway. Don’t know how back I am but I’m hoping it’s true that I am. Feels good to be here right now : )

    Well, alright. I’ll have what you’re having. And oh how I loves me a good “Damn, woman!” One way or the other, whether it’s me reading your hot flashes or you coming around here, you contribute greatly to making my days : )

  7. Wow, now I’m really scared about the writer’s block! Thanks a lot, Miss.

    hahaha Manny and Denver Joe, I loved that part.

    Thanks for the jazz though :)

  8. Oh my, oh my! The where to start and how to finish and all that in between. Firstly, listen to some Coltrane? Oh, please. Do I have to?! So natch, hit play was the first thing I did. And it wasn’t ’til I heard the first full-out breezy solo before I remembered what I came here to do.

    That wasn’t quite how it happened. The first thing I did was read your title and say, “oh, man. She’s go it baaaaaad!”. I simply got interrupted by the sax solos. You know it’s bad when it gets down to the drugs and alcohol. When all else fails you might as well get shnockered. And then we have to sift through the Nexium and such looking for it! And who is to say the rum don’t get better with age?! (I might have a bottle of some such just like that!) Now we’re on to something. Talking dogs, lost jobs, freight trains, and notebooks in ruck sacks! Wow! This is a freaking Johnny Cash song if I ever heard one! And then when you’ve pounded your living-dead ass into the dust, the sun rises. That was not a decline. It was jet propelled dive into the asphalt!

    And that wonderful journey was over so fast it allowed me to realize something devine. That same Coltrane tune was still playing! So I closed my eyes and imagined Tupperware sciences experiments growing in that old fridge. Thanks for keeping me entertained and making me smile. :)

  9. I’d rather be home with Ray
    I ain’t got seventy days
    Cuz there’s nothing, there’s nothing you can teach me
    That I can’t learn from Mr. Hathaway…

    Good morning, Ms Winehouse (the pun is not intended):

    Seems we’re pretty much back where we came in over a year ago, with one of your fine hotblackdesiato meditations on Duffy’s back alley cousin.

    I love the grace that falls on your post-creative narrator in the end; hope you’re still rolling in its bliss, too.

    Seeds are falling all around you, girl. And if Mr. Hathaway is Donny, you ain’t got nuthin’ to worry about. Love to you.

  10. A precipitous fall into the dirt with a belly full of rotgut…piss and moan girl!
    I know that it’s against the laws of physics to pull yourself up by your own boots straps Miss A – but writer’s block didn’t have a chance!

  11. my dear, if i were you, i’d be all over that contest… i dont’ believe in myself enough. with that said, i’m going to give it a try.

    nothing ventured, right?

  12. I’m with Q. You should enter.

    You are at your best when you get to what’s real about you. Whether that is banging your head to get something out of it, or waxing over memories of Cap’n Tom.

    What’s real and tangible for this reader is having seen such self destruction. My eldest cousin has been prone to this cycle his whole life, now entering his seventh decade. He is a brilliant thinker and possessing many talents. Unfortunately his greatest talent is self destruction. It’s sad mainly because he is schizophrenic. He takes the meds long enough to reestablish himself as a competent professional. Then he decides he can quit the meds and self medicate with alcohol. And down he goes.

    I can remember visiting with him when I was 17. He was staying at my grandmothers place for a few weeks. We sat and talked for a couple of hours. He went on philosophically about world history and universal origin. I listened spell bound. I asked what he was going to do. He said he would probably hop a train (he clarified he meant a freight train!) and head south. He left a week later. No word for almost a year.

    He phoned his mother to let her know he was in a homeless shelter in NOLA. Which began his slow climb back into civility. He has probably done this a dozen times in his life. Much to the maternal suffering of my dear Aunt.

    My point is you touch something real. And you are acutely able to paint these things in words for the reader to admire and know.

    So write you must!

  13. I’ve been kind of heading toward the gutter myself these days and seeing this piece, well, it made me laugh, got me to stop looking at my frayed sandals, my sorry feet. Very sharp post; nailed me. Good to see you back here again!

  14. If you give a mouse a cookie…..

    Wonderful read. Good luck with that blocked writer thing. Any reason to drink a cold beer is a good thing!


  15. i could relate a LOT with this, missA. i tend to be particularly self destructive a lot of times, and dont even care about it. and the writers block! tell me about it – now i dont even know if its just that or more to it.
    have always wanted to travel across your part of the world in those frieght trains ever since i read kerouac. someday, may be.

    i do hope things are well with you.

    LOL! True, even read allegorically—give up on creativity and that’s when it’ll find you—this piece is as fearsome as what it addresses! Really glad you liked the Coltrane : )

    Same goes for you regarding the Coltrane, music man. I didn’t mean for it to make you go all ADHD, though… Bah! Truth is, I loved your blow-by-blow, probably got as big a kick out of it as you got out of this coal train piece. You know how I love your descriptions. I could picture your body rollin’ with the Coltrane and your brain rolling like a wheel through an alternating terrain of mud mostly, and gravel—slipping and spinning on the mud of a downhill slide and then breaking out and grabbing hold on the gritty promise of rising up, up and away. And having Coltrane left over is like finding a couple thousand extra in checking. I know how you like to be entertained, so I’m pleased I can check that goal off my list. For this time anyway ; )

    And you, Mister, are ever your exceedingly clever and intuitive self, what with all that Winehouse and Hichhiker’s Guide business. Maybe I am back to being both tortured in the head and dead on a death support system, but would you venture so far away from last year as to say that the aforementioned condition is expressed more craftily this year? I would. Hell, I took a writing class for crissake. LOL!
    Heck no, I’m not blissing, but grousing; I’m not fertile soil, but rocks in a potato field. Them rocks and potatoes, they look exactly alike and you’d think the farmer would do something about the rocks or stop trying to grow potatoes there. I’m working on that. In the meantime, I’ll be over for a beer later on.

    Hey, you, you’re back! I been gone, past couple of days. Didn’t even turn the laptop on. Believe it?! So you snuck this and your SS entry in on me. Same with you as Paschal, I’ll be over later on. Might want something harder than beer by the time I get there, though. And yeah, funny thing about that bootstrap expression and whoever started it…I used to like to say the intent was good, but now I’m not so sure ; )

    Dear god, Quin, I hope you know how fortunate you are that you’re not me ; ) I don’t believe in myself at all, so I guess I’ll give it a try, too. Nothing ventured, nothing gained makes too much sense, though, and I can’t abide by sense at a time like this. This is the kind of thing you do like The Who’s Tommy—eyes shut, ears plugged, gob stopped—by smell and feel only.
    Hey, thanks for coming back to answer my question. Means a lot. Now then, let’s just jump and see how we land.

    Man, after that true nightmare, Thankya Jesus! an infinite number of times that I’m not schizophrenic or bipolar or some other godforsaken thing!!! But man do I know self-destruct trips on a light duty level, compared. Been going on them since high school. These days I go less frequently and they’re guided by a lot more wisdom, fistfuls of St. John’s Wort, and some of the brass tacks that are left over from my dad’s D&R teachings (Discipline and Reality, get. it. into. that. head. of. yours.). Still, these trips are rough. Although I’ve always said I’ve pulled out more brilliance from the dark side than the light, that’s just subjective.
    I will do that Esquire thing, music man (Lord willing). Between Quin and you talkin’ about it and my buddy Nick and Paschal and all those folks on my side, I have wobbled all shaking and freaky to the idea process, have an idea, and will be ready to make myself available at the keyboard soon enough to make midnight, August first (again, Lord willing). So thank you for being your integral self, music man : )

    NOoooo!, Anno! Not you! That would signify the end of the world as your virtual and in your face friends and family know it! That being expressed in an overreactive mode, I’m glad to hear this piece could be the slap, the cold shower, the black coffee, so the world will continue as we know and love and hate it and all points in between. Thanks for being here : )

    …yup, dang mouse’ll have the audacity to ask for milk!
    Glad you enjoyed this train ride/wreck, however you want to look at it. I’ll take those good luck wishes and think of you all at home in the world when I have that glass of milk and I’m grumbling about finding my way and who was it that moved the furniture anyway?!

    Hey, Bum! I see you’ve posted something over at your place at long awaited last! Thought I’d send love notes to everyone here first, then I’ll be over later on. So glad you stopped by ‘cause it’s been so long that I’ve forgotten what you look like. You look fine despite the bumps in the road. We seem to run similar courses at similar times, you and I—patches of knowing, confusion, observing, questioning, rebellion, tolerating, participating, refusing to participate, and on and on, all the while trying to put things in order in our minds… Putting things in order…how funny and chances are, one of the biggest culprits. Probably why we have to roll with chaos, deconstruct, self-destruct, or whatever name of the moment you want to label personal upheaval. LOL!
    Things are well enough with me, Bum. I whine in phases of discontent, like now, but it’s never without knowing deeply how good I really do have it.

  17. Hermana: It lacks self-knowledge (I know, you’d claim that’s exactly what you lack at present, but I beg to differ) to even fret that this year’s doings are perhaps no better than last year’s. Though I must take some exception with your tendency to smack down last year’s entries. I managed to manifest a heap big crush on what I was reading last year here at the construction site. Yes, I’ve swooned over some fiercesome masterpieces in ’09, but you were loud and clear last year too, chica.

    My reference to Ms Winehouse was merely reminiscing (fondly reminiscing, mind you) over what I found when I stumbled to the door last year and found that the house (was) a’rockin’. And, if memory serves, I did not bother knockin’. You’ve found (yes, found) your fictionista, but we all also fell in love with that wild enthusiastic river in flood voice that revealed a you we wuz all falling zombie-crazy for.

    I remember that amazing homecoming voice of self recognizing mirrored self when I woke one morning to your intoxicating throwdown in my comment section, and I haven’t looked back since.

    Hungry for life
    And thirsty for the distant river


    ¿Qué, hermano?
    So much here, so many italics, so much to get back at you about! But I’m on the road. Just signed on to comment over at your place and check this place. So you will have to wait… And I know you have forever : )

  19. Well ain’t this the life that we all live. Week after week. Sometimes I think life is as long as one week. Every Monday you’re born again, you live through all the anguish and anxiety and monotony of the week, only to culminate it in one long swig of whiskey at the end of the week, not knowing what the fuck came over you. But there’s breaking point. And that point is the point where your story starts and mine ends. I am glad I read this today, at the end of Sunday. My story begins tomorrow. :)

    I know this is severely after the fact, but I’ve unloaded a big project and I’m feelin’ free, going back to revisit some things here. So for the record I have to say I like how you put this. Pure futility. And I say I hate futility, but do I really? What about chaos? I detest it. Or do I? It’s Monday night here in the States and I’m starting my life, whatever that is.

    And Paschal, I give. Regarding the italics-fest, that is. It’s like an IQ test! Put me out of my “misery” or not.
    After the fact, I did, still do, lack self knowledge. Just got out of the [corporate] house only a couple of years ago, you know? Still learning soul language. And certainly I didn’t mean for any of my words to have a pouncing sound, just the threat of a pounce ; ) But I sure do love the Cripple Creek treatment : )

    There is no set formula—that would go against Chaos and its hoodlum band of apparently random events—but once I lock onto something like I did this, the odds seem better for getting back to it later or maybe later… I’m just glad you were out there to witness that freak event ;-)

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