This Space For Rent

Today we examine the electronic equivalent of a blank billboard. OK, they are never actually blank, but say something like “Available” with a telephone number or website for the sales people. Which reminds me, why can I never spell “equivalent” on the first try? It would be awfully embarrassing without the spell-checker nagging me after I stick the wrong vowels in the wrong places for the eleventy-sixth time.

But I digress. The real topic: What am I going to write about today?

I have no idea.

My normal process is not all that regular. When I get a strong bit of inspiration I sometimes find fifteen minutes to start a (really) rough draft. Those will then sit around for awhile, looking like me in the first fifteen minutes after I get up in the morning – not ready for interaction with the outside world. Those pieces will sit there until I find myself without much to say and I will pluck one out and hammer it into shape. Or until it becomes moldy from age and I vow to come back and throw it out – when I have more time. (Procrastination? Whatever do you mean?)

Other times I tackle a topic that requires research and a lot of time. Those require steady bits of attention over two or three weeks before they are ready to go. Which is why the pieces described above get used while I am preoccupied with a more labor-intensive undertaking to be published in a future week.

But then there are times like now. It is Thursday morning. My self-imposed deadline says that I go live with something new at 4 a.m. EST Friday. I am have a full workday planned, one that does not involve idle time for writing a blog post. This combination of things would normally tell me what today’s lunch time will look like – JP doing some editing and cleanup on one of those partly-finished ideas (all of which seem rougher and less finished than is normal). But lunch today has me out of the office at a meeting, so that’s out. And I set my evenings aside to be with Marianne, not looking at another computer screen – this is one of those tips for a long and happy marriage. So, blog post. Yeah.

Perhaps this is the day we all bond a little more deeply when I pull back the curtain to display that I am not always ready with some clever or interesting thing to say or that I am not always in a chipper or creative mood. Russia bombing the snot out of Ukraine might have something to do with that. Isn’t naked aggression of that kind something we only read about in history books? Apparently not.

It’s not as though I have lacked for interesting things in my life over the last week or two. I was, through a strange coincidence, re-acquainted with an old friend from my grade school/high school years. I received a two-page hand-written letter from a distant relative. How often does that happen any more? I even baked a banana cake and iced it with made-from-scratch cream cheese frosting. Each of these might have made a topic worth fleshing out, and perhaps one of them might be some other time. But not today.

When I was in law school, the typical class format involved discussion of legal cases we had been assigned to read. We might get through two or three in a class period, each of which dealt with some twist or other in a particular legal doctrine or idea. For each case to discuss, the professor would randomly call on a student, who would be on the hot seat for a back-and-forth dialog, with the prof asking questions and the student trying to answer them without looking foolish. Nobody liked being called on and the stress level always subsided when someone else’s name rang out.

We all had those days where we had not done the assigned reading, which made for a high stakes game as class commenced. So long as the professor called on someone else, all was well. But on a really bad day, the student who had not done the reading and the student called upon to dialog with the professor would be the same person. At which point the poor sap would be forced to respond with “I’m sorry, I’m not prepared today” and the professor would choose someone else.

And so here we are. The feeling is not as traumatic or embarrassing as it was those many years ago in class. (“Embarrassing” is another of those words that seems unable to find a place to stick in my brain. The “r” and “s” always seem so over-represented. I can do banana, though.) Still, we have not reached the point where we are seeking total strangers to post things here (as would be the case with a blank billboard). Although, come to think of it, that also might be an interesting idea for a blog post.

Oh well, the secret is out, something is on the billboard, and I can now relax. For today, at least. Because I’m pretty sure I am going to get called on again next Friday.

Image Credit: Blank billboard from the Flickr page of Johanna under license.

15 thoughts on “This Space For Rent

  1. Back when I was a struggling engineering student I was well acquainted with the concept of “taking the zero” on an assignment. I doesn’t usually happen in real life, but here’s a passable example.

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    • I didn’t do the “not prepared” but maybe a couple of times. I suppose it’s better to do it here than in other areas of my life where the costs of non-performance are far higher.

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    • I got advice early on that I needed to keep a regular schedule. If I allowed myself a week off I know myself and I know what would happen – about 4 months later there would be a new post and I would wonder where all of you went. šŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • LOL – it’s true, we do get regular followers and we expect SOME news each week, right. Last week I didn’t have inspiration. When that happens, sometimes I make two posts the next week to catch up, but as you mentioned, I try to stay on target too. Happy Spring! Maybe you’ve got a St. Patrick’s story up your sleeve…

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  2. It was very creative for a blank billboard! I’ve been in a bit of a blogging funk lately too……I have topics but no interest in doing the work to pull it all together, so then I just take a pass for a week or so….as long as it doesn’t go on too long. The Ukraine situation is preoccupying my thoughts too and stamping out any creativity, plus the end of winter doldrums.

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  3. Sometimes I’ll look back on past posts (esp. when a new reader “likes” an old one) and think, “Man, I was really flowing that day” or “Geez, that felt a little manufactured.” Not everything I write is inspired, because I’m held to the same weekly expectation as you which forces the process every now and then. Unlike authors and their novels, I wouldn’t call it “writer’s block” so much as “writer’s yearning”, for a topic deserving of a post. The best topics for me come out of nowhere; little stories I can build a post around in an hour or two. The marginal topics for me are already out there, sitting on a list, waiting to be tapped into something inspirational. My billboards will never be blank but they won’t always deserve a reader’s time either.

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    • You are absolutely right – I can look back at some old posts and marvel at how I really had it all going on that day. Others, not so much.

      I wish I had a list of all the great topics I thought of in the car or in the middle of something more important and that were not written down.

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  4. Well JP, I pause when I spell “weird” every time … I never memorized when the “i” goes before the “e” etc. Weird huh? I had to take “Law of the Press” while taking my journalism core classes and I believe only one professor taught that class – Jack Highton. And, he was all about assigning a ton of reading material and giving on-the-spot quizzes to one student. Yes, like you said, we lived in fear of being called upon, even if you knew the cases and their outcome, because if you stumbled and bumbled, you’d hear about it. With walking, there is an endless slew of ideas, so I’m lucky in that regard, because I’m not sure I could come up with a regular topic every week either.

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