I’d been having such a blast writing my INTERVIEWS WITH THE DEAD that I had begun considering using this space almost exclusively to develop and extend the form. Problem is, if I go by the number of readers who view Mondays’ posts, too many interviews too often, get boring. And the idea of boring is a writer’s worst nightmare. So I couldn’t put an interview on the docket for this week’s column.

Then what? This question usually pops up about twenty minutes after I’ve published my last post. I’m used to it and push the anxiety aside. I need the mind space to work on the fourth Matt Jacob book, TIES THAT BLIND. Also, if Mondays are publishing days, Tuesdays are music days. It takes me a fair amount of time to practice the sax, and prepare for my lesson and ensemble hours at MusicMakerStudios. That “performance” comes fully equipped with its own anxiety; what I lack in talent I try to make up for with work—which often isn’t terribly successful.

But Tuesdays are always fun days and nights, which is very much the calm before the storm. Wednesday morning, my Monday worries are in full bloom. This past week I struggled to engage, to find myself interested enough in a topic to write about. I thought about reviewing Hugo Chavez’s legacy, but everywhere I looked interesting articles about him–pro or con–were everywhere. I couldn’t imagine writing anything that could conceivably change anyone’s mind, so why bother? Felt like I’d be talking to myself.

I return to the newspaper and go through three days of ink but nothing jumps so I reconsider another interview. Desperation move, I think. Like I said, too much repetition makes for a drag. I tell myself I have plenty of time and that worrying won’t help my subconscious churn something out. After all, if an idea doesn’t come from current events, the arts, or other externals, it’s got to rise up from the deep. I’ve always believed that consciousness is the last stop for information, not the first—let’s hope it’s true this week.

Another two days pass and it’s Friday. The Northeast gets whacked with yet another snowstorm, while I pour over my copy of Baseball Prospectus, hungry for the season to begin. Ahh, an idea, perhaps? PLAY BALL!! A review of my Arizona trips to Spring Training? An analysis of the Red Sox? Uhh, I think not. Can’t imagine anyone interested in baseball after shoveling their cars out from another foot of snow. Even if the post is three days away. Around here, three days just means you’re no longer allowed to save your parking space with chairs or trash barrels.

Not a good idea to eliminate all my northeast readership. I just can’t count on Wyoming to flesh out the numbers.

Late Friday afternoon and head-banging time. The walls are moving closer and closer together and I’m scrambling to find a way out. I got to find a way to chill.

Break out the bourbon.

I’d like to say that one swallow opened the door but it didn’t. Two swallows though, cleared my mind enough to begin thinking. I considered a piece on Benedict’s abdication and the upcoming conclave. But we all know why Benedict really resigned and can only suspect which definition of damage control and conserving Empire the conclave will send up along with their white smoke.

It’s Saturday morning and too early for more alcohol.

Okay, Klein, you’ve been doing this for a couple of years now. You’re either all dried up or you ain’t thinking. I prefer the latter so I’m gonna either stare at a blank computer screen or beat this horse into talking. (Before animal advocates get too angry, the horse I’m talking about is me.)

The horse finally talked. “Write about the struggle you’re having this week with the column, but make it interesting!”

Damn horse sounded like Captain Pickard: “Make it so!” But in truth, the idea caught my fancy. Why shouldn’t you share my tsouris? Or, more writerly put, why not share my weekly process? This was an idea I could get behind. Just recount the truth. Write about the mishigas I go through every time I sit down to write my post. On top of which, this week was perfect since it was an “I got nothing” five days, a day of writing, then Sunday to turn this into a coherent article.

So here it is, my friends. A look inside my past week of writing—or nonwriting, as it were. I suppose I could finish by reciting various “Win one for the Gipper” homilies, but truth is, I’m left with only one head-scratcher: People want to know why writers drink?

You’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on.— Dean Martin


  1. It’s admirable that you’ve diligently written/posted something just about every week for 2 years. You don’t need a “fascinating”/current topic to keep your readers interested – just have to write about something–anything–in an interesting way, as you’ve done here! Thanks for giving all of us a few chuckles on a Monday morning.

  2. Drinkers, cutters, wringers, self-flagellators? Geez, maybe this writing stuff isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? It can’t be good for one’s health. Can it?
    Geez, it has all the trappings of hard-core B&D.


  3. Remember in about 6th grade when you decided you’d write the Great American Novel? How heady was that? You told everybody, you dreamed with your eyes wide open, and you constructed a perfect first chapter. Then you made your first mistake. You showed it to your siblings. That little scenario puts you off for a lot of years. So you take classes. Lots of classes. Went home upset and mad a lot. But then you finally decided that an author can’t fall in love with his words, that everything is cutable, and that writing is a craft and you must learn the craft. To the fire pit with art. To the devil with talent. Learn the craft. So you learn the craft and lo! you’re ready to write that Great American Novel. So you do. So it’s roundly rejected by many and you’re in the dumps again. So then you take jobs as letter-writers, feature writers and column writers. That’s when you begin to run out of ideas. How many ways can you say cheer up, laddie, everything will turn out right? So you say you’re through with writing. You forget about it and then, writing takes over. It writes itself in your head and eventually you start putting it down. Suddenly you find you’re being published without even writing the dumb thing yourself. It wrote itself, the characters took over and did their own thing. Every time you try to return to craftmanship, class teachings and the like, you’re back in that blue funk. I agree 100% that consciousness is the last stop for inspiration. There’s a vast well of creativity and sometimes it flows to you. Lucky you. You’re a writer.

    • Louise, my one and only–” There’s a vast well of creativity and sometimes it flows to you. Lucky you. You’re a writer.” And you, my dear are both a writer and an artist. I’m jealous.

  4. Sometimes you just need to give yourself a break, Zach. Nothing wrong with that.

    I try to post twice a week – a short snippet on Sunday and a “real” post on Wednesday. Or Tuesday. Or, sometimes Thursday. Or, not at all, if there is nothing ready to go.

    I figure everyone is so busy if I skip a post, they probably won’t notice. But if I post something awful, they’ll remember.

    • Cindy–I know you’re right. And there are weeks when I really have trouble. But have been lucky by having friends who are interesting writers to fill in. But how anyone could do more than one column a week blows my mind.

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