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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Thinker’s Block

Years ago, I heard from an intermediary that somebody I care about deeply had referred to me as a 'primary source'. By this they meant that I was often a source of original thinking… and fresh insights. In this person's point of view, a secondary source was someone who relayed and discussed other people’s ideas, or worse, repackaged other people’s ideas and opinions as their own.

At the time I took being called a primary source as the highest possible compliment, and became a voracious reader of other people’s opinions to reassure myself of my own originality. However, in short order, I found that I was weighing and measuring everything I said for its novelty, which in the end found me gagged into dumb silence for lack of a unique point of view.

This compliment that had most likely been given in the most off-hand manner turned into a long-term curse. The more I tried to confirm my own inventiveness… the more I discovered that the world was full of novel ideas I’d have loved to call my own. It was a humbling experience to constantly ask myself, “Why didn’t I think of that?!”

Part of the reason I began blogging…and blogging specifically about fairly personal observations (as opposed to political commentary or current events)… was to try to reconnect with the part of myself that used to observe and comment about things in truly original ways.

I’ve been banging away here at treppenwitz for about 6 months now, and I can honestly say that I have usually been able to keep the end of my nose in view while describing my world, and I’ve managed to relegate secondary sources/opinions almost entirely to the periphery of my commentary. Granted, I occasionally give into the temptation to talk about the political landscape… but by and large, I leave that to the people who are able to do it well.

However, I have recently been noticing that when I make the rounds of my regular blogs and news sites before sitting down to write, I end up with something akin to writer’s block: Something I call ‘Thinker’s Block’. It’s not that I can’t write exactly… but rather I feel unqualified to write. Having never taken a journalism class, I honestly can't figure out how 'real writers' manage to keep their own ideas from getting jumbled up with the viewpoints and observations of others. What I’m talking about is the feeling one gets after hearing or reading such wonderfully original thinking that all you can say (or think) is, “Yeah… what he said!”

I once read about a cartoonist that steadfastly refused to look at anyone else’s work for fear it would creep into his own. I’m starting to understand the concept. For hours, and sometimes days after reading really good, smart commentary (or compelling crap) I am unable to write a coherent sentence. I know that blogs are expected to be chock full of links to the latest and greatest thinking about ‘did you read?’… and ‘have you seen?’, etc. But for some reason that stuff is like kryptonite to my writing muse.

If you see a few days go by without my having posted an entry, chances are pretty good that I have gotten too deeply involved with reading someone else’s blog (like Imshin’s wonderful take on Ami Ayalon’s speech, or the tragic little psycho-drama going on over at protocols). But by the same token, if you see 5 or 6 posts here in the course of a week, you can be pretty sure I have been sipping, rather than gulping from the online fountain of OPI (Other People’s Ideas).

Here’s to moving past 'Thinker’s Block'. Cheers.

Posted by David Bogner on May 19, 2004 | Permalink


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for whatever reason, david, i am up *way* past my bedtime and just now happened upon this entry, so please accept my apologies for typos and incoherency.

i can understand what you mean by thinker's block, but it's impossible in my honest opinion to cut yourself off from outside influences entirely. each one of us who writes, writes from our own inner "filters" and brings a unique perspective to our writing.

while perhaps you are not a journalist, you are indeed a wordsmith. if i want journalism, i'll read the newspaper.

ok, enough with the e e cummings impersonation.

wishing you a good shabbat.

Posted by: jennifer | May 22, 2004 2:30:42 AM

Way too much punctuation for Cummings, but I got the reference.

Thanks for the sweet compliment. What most people don't realize is that we bloggers are not looking for the adulation of our peers, but rather the simple acknowledgement. Your's means a great deal to me.

Posted by: David | May 22, 2004 8:44:45 PM

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