Death of the Gerrymander in Pennsylvania and What It Means

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that gerrymandering is a bad thing, and it’s going to stop in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The knee jerk response from some might be to say that the justices removed a perk for the ruling party in our legislature, since drawing the lines for the U.S. Congressional Districts could be done to favor one party or the other – the whole point of gerrymandering, of course.

As for the timing of this particular ruling, it is rather inconvenient for the 18th Congressional District, recently vacated by Tim Murphy and due for a special election in March. By May’s primary, the result of the special election will become meaningless, since the 18th District was gerrymandered to benefit Republicans.

Both Democrats and Republicans have taken advantage of gerrymandering U.S. Congressional districts over the years, so while the timing of this ruling isn’t advantageous for Republicans right now, it’s disingenuous to suggest that ending the practice is aimed specifically at Republicans. (We can revisit this if the court allows Democrats to re-draw the lines to their own advantage later.)

The current ruling requires that the lines be logically drawn, without splitting up counties or municipalities unless it’s absolutely necessary. In other words, district lines will theoretically overlap county and municipal lines throughout most of the Commonwealth, one way or another.

While the current ruling may very well have been influenced at least a little by a desire to break down some of the power of the Republican party in Pennsylvania, the long term result will likely cause political moderation in U.S. Congressional races. Running on a highly partisan platform for most seats simply won’t work anymore. Perhaps that will become an unintended consequence for the justices, but for the people of Pennsylvania, it will mean that they could end up largely above the hyper-partisan political fray on the national level. That is at least a little idealistic, but not impossible, since the voting populace of the Commonwealth has been generally moderate historically anyway. No matter what, removing the ability to draw U.S. Congressional districts from the pile of political perks for both Democrats and Republicans will hopefully ensure that candidates for the House will have to pay more attention to one thing they occasionally forget – the constituents they represent, regardless which party they happen to be registered with on their Voter ID cards.

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Death of the Gerrymander in Pennsylvania and What It Means

Advice to Congress on Passing Bills

As we are getting beyond the shutdown of the government in January of 2018, it seems like an appropriate time to think about exactly how we get into situations like this. Most Americans who managed to take and pass a basic class on government in high school (or earlier) should have learned about how laws are actually passed. Of course, that very basic lesson isn’t very close to reality, but it’s definitely worth remembering now.

The pundits have been overdrive pointing fingers over who should be blamed for the current shutdown, but only a few are digging at least a little deeper – commenting on the logistics of avoiding another shutdown in February. Donald Trump is the primary focus of those discussions, primarily because our Congress isn’t like those old government classes described it. Theoretically, Congress is supposed to make laws, and the President is supposed to enforce them. As part of our “checks and balances”, enforcement includes signing bills into law. Of course, there is also the presidential power of the veto, which is what our current Congress is probably worried about happening when it comes to (for the moment) our spending and immigration bills.

If you don’t remember talk in the classroom about presidents exerting a great deal of power over Congress or involving themselves in the drafting of or debate over bills, you probably didn’t fall asleep in class. That is something that was rarely taught in any classroom, since it wasn’t drafted into our Constitution. However, it is the reason why many people became highly annoyed with President Obama for “legislating from the White House” – something our current Congress is theoretically supposed to fix now with DACA legislation.

Right now, Republican leadership in the House of Representatives and the Senate have been saying that they are annoyed with President Trump for not telling them explicitly what laws he’s willing to sign into law. If that sounds to you like they are trying to please a dictator by going through motions in Congress, your aren’t far from the truth. The problem we have now is that Congress stopped attempting to making laws on its own decades ago, thanks to the high degree of partisanship in American politics and presidents who did not back away from exerting more power than they probably should have when it comes to making laws.

Trump had characterized Obama as a power-grabbing tyrant because of this behavior, so perhaps he is only willing to tell Congress what he’s willing to sign into law as opposed to outright telling them which laws to pass. No matter what, the end result is the same – Congress is left with three choices:

Do nothing – Don’t even try to figure out what Trump will sign, and just don’t bother trying to pass any laws. Of course, this would probably lead to them all being voted out of office, but it is still one option open to them.

Try to guess what Trump wants – This apparently will be just a guessing game, since it seems that Trump has issues with saying what he wants, and – more importantly – sticking to it long enough for Congress to actually act on it. Since Trump is used to people jumping to appease him, this probably will never work well. Congress moves much slower than the executives employed by Trump’s (former) businesses.

Pass only veto-proof laws – This rule would apply to the big issues, so it’s unlikely that Congress will actually make this choice. That doesn’t change the fact that this is probably the best solution they have for their current problem – an executive who easily changes his mind.

People have said that the Trump administration would change history, and they’re probably right. If it forces Congress to go back to its roots, re-learn the nearly extinct art of statesmanship, and manage to get work done without needing a presidential signature to enact laws, that would be a significant change for the better. At the very least, it would restore strength to our system of checks and balances, and perhaps chip away at a little of the power that has been grabbed by the executive branch over the years.

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Advice to Congress on Passing Bills

Trump, Clumsy Handshakes, and Media Illiteracy

Thanks to a less than graceful handshake during the Association Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila, the media decided to lose their collective minds over Trump. Of course, this has played out predictably – ostensibly left-wing media calling the president an oaf, and right-wing social media getting upset – or something. First, let’s take a look at the video that started it all:

While it is true that Trump really did have trouble with the social situation, it could have been worse. He could have just stood there like Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev did, without even attempting to do the handshake properly. If nothing else, maybe Trump will have a chat with his tailors about making suits a bit more generous in the shoulders for any future contortionist-inspired diplomatic activities. (Yes, pulling his suit tight probably was the cause of the much-maligned grimace he made – undoubtedly hoping not to hear a ripping sound.)

All in all, this situation should have been barely a blip on the media radar, and thanks to the general rush of headlines on a typical Monday, that is mostly how this went. However, there are people out there with “hurt feelings” over the media poking fun at Trump. Perhaps they have a short memory, and don’t recall the eight years of ridiculing “mom jeans”, demanding birth certificates, and primate references about the First Lady.

Cries against the “mainstream media” aren’t as meaningful as they once were. While the “big three” networks still enjoy a fair amount of popularity, when it comes to news coverage there really is no effective way to determine how many viewers are really engaged in their news content. Remember, local news is delivered by their affiliates, and their national news shows are either right after them or actually mingled with local content. Also, the number of people who say that they get their news primarily from the major networks have been dwindling for years, so many of the programs are swaying into the realm of “infotainment” more than ever.

When it comes to political news, viewers are generally divided on political lines, just like in everything else. The whining about the mainstream media treatment of Trump follows that line, too. This all would theoretically settle itself in the political “wash”, with the public seeking out preferred content, but we have one little problem that is making the media wars a little more heated.

Trump has an exceedingly thin skin for a president.

The media knows this.

It has almost become a sport at this point. Trump loves to throw tantrums over the media – calling some outlets fake because they disagree with him, and threatening to shut down others for “reasons.”

And his base is just encouraging the battle.

So, every time Trump does something awkward or flat out stupid in front of a camera, they capitalize on it.

Wash, rinse, repeat…

The end result is that the president gets to use his own “outrage” to monopolize headlines, and keep the media from examining what he doesn’t want on the spotlight – because they are too busy poking fun at him.

If anyone should be upset with how this is going, Trump’s detractors should be furious that the media is focusing on the trivial minutiae of every social faux pas the president does, instead of staying focused on the business of state.

The bottom line is that the media is an active participant in lowering the bar for American leadership by engaging in this game. Once upon a time, we were worried about Americans suffering from media illiteracy because they are living on a steady diet of “news-light” via social media blurbs. Now, we need to start worrying about the media itself being illiterate.

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Trump, Clumsy Handshakes, and Media Illiteracy

No, This Isn’t an ‘Off Year’ for Elections

It’s election day here in the US, and it’s likely that voter turnout will be very low. Odd numbered years are usually ignored by many voters for many reasons – all of which are generally misguided.

People tend to get excited about going to the polls in presidential election years, of course. Turnout numbers are highest then. Even numbered years in general enjoy higher turnout rates, because there are lawmakers on the ballot.

But, with the exception of some special elections, odd numbered years tend to only have municipal and judicial seats on the ballot. Also, lawmakers often schedule otherwise contentious referendums for these elections, counting on low turnout and voter laziness to keep the numbers where they would like to see them.

Here are a few of the misguided notions voters have about why this year’s election doesn’t really matter:

There are no “important” offices up for election – Just because winning today doesn’t earn a trip to Washington or a state capital for a candidate doesn’t make the office unimportant. Typical offices on the ballot today include local executive, legislative, and judicial seats – yes, that system is at work even in your home town. Local executives are mayors, managers, county executives, etc., and they do essentially the same job as the president for your local area. Council people, commissioners, board members, etc. are the equivalent of Congress in your town or school district. Magistrates and judges are your local judicial branch. The reason why these people are arguably even more important than the people who end up in Washington is because the decisions they make will have an immediate effect on your daily life. The taxes they levy will be felt by you first, and unlike taxes from the Federal government, there are very loopholes (if any) for you to avoid them. If you end up with a pushover for your local executive, that means your local legislators will have a much easier time passing higher taxes, or cutting services your community really needs. You can think that it doesn’t matter who your local magistrates and judges are, but you will care about that when you end up getting hit with an expensive traffic citation or fine for not cutting your grass.

My vote doesn’t count anyway – Ironically enough, that argument might be slightly more accurate in a presidential election than it ever will be in a local one. Many of the offices up for grabs today will be decided by margins of under 100 votes. Yes, it is quite possible that a single vote could trigger recounts in some races today. When races have such a small number of people eligible to vote for a given office, every vote counts. These are also the elections where a write-in candidate could very easily win the election.

I don’t even know what half the offices on the ballot do anyway – While some of the offices up for election today are obvious (like coroner or tax collector), there may be some that are utterly unfamiliar. Ones like prothonotary (chief court clerk) are a little nebulous for many voters. Before the age of Google, questions about those offices could be posed to poll or election bureau workers. You can still ask them, but let your fingers do the walking! Learn about the offices, and what those people do. In the case of the prothonotary, that person is in charge of overseeing court documents, and that person’s office is where you would go in a courthouse to see case files that haven’t been sealed from public view. Given all the trouble that we see daily about information being withheld by the government (or leaked by people who shouldn’t have that information), maybe the gatekeeper of your own local court files really is an important office after all?

What’s a referendum? Why should I care? – Referendums are usually issues that legislators put on the ballot so that they can get a popular vote on something that they don’t want to decide on their own, or that they must put on the ballot because of rules built into a state’s constitution. The former are usually hot button issues, and the latter are usually state constitutional amendments. Unfortunately, the rules usually don’t require that these issues be placed on the ballot during a particular year, so they end up on the odd numbered years – legislators are relying on you skipping the polls today. Another trick of their trade is to word these measures in a confusing way, even to the point where people will think that they are voting for one thing but in reality they are choosing the opposite. This is where the poll workers can help you out a little. While they can’t tell people what position to take, usually they can let you know which choice to make when you tell them where you actually stand on the issue. If they honestly can’t, you can still contact your county election bureau by phone or online, depending on how “plugged in” your county is. Otherwise, watch the “no’s and not’s” in the wording. One typical trick used in referendums is double and triple negatives. Remember, double negatives usually do add up to a positive. Also, check the status quo on the issue. Pennsylvania tried to pull a fast one on this with mandatory retirement ages for judges, by not mentioning in the referendum that the existing retirement age was actually lower than the one proposed. The way it was worded, it appeared that the people were voting on creating a mandatory retirement age for the first time, not extending an existing one. Why it mattered was that it would cost taxpayers more money when the judges finally would retire, because their pensions were based on their highest pay and they receive raises yearly. Also, increasing retirement ages could leave the people with judges who honestly shouldn’t have been on the bench due to mental deficits from old age – senile judges are cute on TV, but not in actual courtrooms. The bottom line is this: Do you really want to sit at home and let some politicians pull a fast one on you with a questionable referendum?

Today, you have the opportunity to elect the people who will have the most influence on your daily life when they take office. There is no “trickle down government” effect here, like we see with most changes in federal government. The decisions these people make in your home town will effect every person in your community immediately. Thankfully, these leaders are also going to have to deal with the voters directly on a daily basis. But, do you really want to skip deciding who collects your local taxes, determines the fines for your grass being too tall, sets the cost of parking in your business district, when and if your local roads get repaired, what your kids learn in the classroom, etc.? This is where the rubber hits the road in government. Are you in the driver’s seat, or just along for the ride?

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Source: Literat Politik

No, This Isn’t an ‘Off Year’ for Elections

Disaster Relief – Do We Need Government?

In the wake of hurricanes and wildfires, many Americans are facing the fact that they either need to rebuild where they were, or move on. This is also causing a fair amount of debates in Washington, as politicians and the public alike are taking the Trump administration to task for not leaping quick enough to meet the needs of people and communities that have suffered the greatest losses.

As John Stossel explains, this is a relatively new mentality – assuming that the federal government should “fix” things.

The public generally believes that the government is inefficient, and in spite of this, still calls for the government to deal with rebuilding after a disaster. In spite of evidence on the ground, in the form of non-profits and businesses stepping up to help people in need, the people still call for the government to help?

This attitude that the federal government can cure all ills has been around for a very long time, but it became far more popular after 9/11. People quickly learned to expect the government to step in, and “fix” things. That also means that the people stopped thinking that they could do a great deal on their own, without governmental assistance. There was no material change in private assets, and there was actually a significant growth in number of private charities, particularly in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But still, this attitude of “needing government” has prevailed, and is leaving us with debates in Congress over how much deeper in debt our country needs to go in order to have the federal government inefficiently rebuild wide swaths of our nation.

Have the American people really become that helpless?

Oddly enough, our culture has simultaneously been pushing various dystopian narratives in film and on television, all of which center on societies that have become utterly dependent on government. This attitude that we “need” the government to cure all ills is just a step toward a future like we’re seeing on the screens. Why are we catering to that path?

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Disaster Relief – Do We Need Government?

The Godfather of Fake News

Before there was the web as we know it, there was fake news – thanks to Stephen Glass. The New Republic was stung worst by Glass, the journalist who will go down in history as the craftiest pathological liar. If you’re unfamiliar with who this man is, you can look up the movie, Shattered Glass, which sprung from a Vanity Fair article of the same name.

Of course the film is a somewhat fictionalized version of the true story about the journalist who sold lies as factual articles to multiple national publications, including Rolling Stone. (Yes, that does mean there were fabrications in print from that magazine long before the University of Virginia gang rape debacle.)

As for Stephen Glass, he can be credited with creating the glass ceiling on lies in journalism. It would be nice to say that the journalistic world learned a long-standing and important lesson from this pathological liar, but any lessons learned didn’t necessarily lead to greater integrity in the vocation. Whether or not current editors are consciously aware of it, Glass set the limits for fabricating “facts” for print. That’s readily apparent from the apology interview Glass had with 60 Minutes.

The previous video is just under 13 minutes, but if you are really wanting to understand the motives behind creating fake news, it’s worth the time. Glass attempts to explain himself, and his habit of creating stories that were completely fabricated. Today’s “half-truths” and “exaggerations” have slightly more complex motives, but at their core, are the same. The bottom line is getting the “home run” as Glass put it. He destroyed his own career in journalism in the pursuit of constant attention, adulation, and a record of seemingly perfect stories.

He wanted fame.

Today’s fake news is driven by the desire for “hits” online, and unfortunately, the desire to manipulate the masses. Because neither Glass nor the purveyors of fake news today are concerned with presenting factual information, it is just an exercise in building egos. Glass got away with his lies because he gamed the system – he could get past the fact-checkers because he had done their jobs already. He knew what they would look for, and gave them it.

Sites and publications that offer fake news are no different. They just rely on the public being stupid.

They rely on the public not taking the time to check facts.

They just are very talented at manipulating readers by playing to the emotions of their intended audiences.

In military speak, they are propagandists who are well-versed on the tools of psychological warfare.

Glass was the same type, but instead of needing to manipulate large masses of people, he just had to keep offering “perfect stories” to his editors. The editors were duped because they wanted to believe that it was possible for a single journalist to consistently deliver exciting stories for their readers.

Today’s publishers of fake news have far more sinister desires, and all of them have to do with controlling their audiences as opposed to entertaining them.

Of course, this is all in reference to “fake news” that is really offering lies as truth – not news sources that are accused of being “fake” simply because someone disagrees with them.

Glass got away with his lies because people wanted his stories to be true.

Fake news flourishes today because the people have become too lazy to bother making sure that what they are reading is accurate.

Either way, it boils down to the public believing lies. What has changed is that believing the lies today involves falling prey to the agendas of others, instead of just feeding the ego of one pathological liar who managed to get a job as a journalist.

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Source: Literat Politik

The Godfather of Fake News

Do Trump Supporters Oppose the First Amendment?

Not very long ago, people on the right were upset about the fact that many (mostly left-wing) college students thought that the First Amendment doesn’t (shouldn’t?) protect hate speech. Now, thanks to Donald Trump, it looks like there’s some lack of understanding about our freedoms when it comes to speech and the press.

Yes, that was the president suggesting that our nation needs to take a step closer to state-run media. There is no way to call it anything but that, since the reason the president is giving for revoking broadcast licenses has everything to do with the fact that he didn’t like what the stations in question were broadcasting.

That’s like taking a page from the book of this guy:

Senator Ben Sasse called it right on his personal Twitter account:

And that brings us to the question at hand: Do Trump supporters oppose the First Amendment?

It’s likely that they will all say “no” to that, but if they are defending the president’s statements about revoking broadcast licenses of television networks that happen to “hurt his feelings” by reporting news in ways he doesn’t like? That is censorship.

Also, it is essentially a toddler-style temper tantrum.

Perhaps we have to agree with Trump supporters about one thing: Trump definitely is beating Obama on a couple metrics. He’s got a thinner skin, and he’s more a narcissist.

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Source: Literat Politik

Do Trump Supporters Oppose the First Amendment?

Birth Control, Conscience, and Choice

Several groups on the left have gotten upset over the fact that Donald Trump is rolling back the “free birth control” clause of the Affordable Care Act. Theoretically, that’s justified, since millions of women have been taking advantage of the program. How many of those millions honestly couldn’t afford birth control in the first place is probably up for debate.

Also, it’s debatable whether or not the new battle front for these groups should involve petitioning for the FDA to allow some more birth control options to end up available over the counter. (Don’t expect to see that, even though it theoretically would make the pill available to more women, because if it’s over the counter, there wouldn’t be any subsidies through any kind of prescription coverage.)

But, no matter what, it’s disingenuous to suggest that great numbers of women who want to use birth control will no longer be able to have it because their employers refuse to pay for it. Before the birth control mandate, birth control was generally treated like any other prescription, which meant that prescription drug coverage partially subsidized the cost of the pills. Without the mandate, it’s fairly safe to assume that it will go back to that standard. Also, insurance companies aren’t going to be forbidden from offering birth control coverage directly to women, even those who are employed by companies that do not want to pay for the drugs. Remember, the issue is about companies not wanting to pay for a particular type of coverage, not forbidding women from having that coverage on their own.

These organizations that are upset about this would be better served by starting to cut deals with the birth control manufacturers themselves, and make coupons or other discount programs available to women who can’t afford the full cost of birth control themselves. (Again, this number isn’t as high as they would have people believe, thanks to multiple generic options.)

If they were really serious about increasing access for women, they would be asking pharmacies with clinics to start offering birth control services.

The primary problem with this issue is that people are focusing on the emotions, as opposed to the money. The bottom line remains that insurance companies didn’t complain about this mandate in the first place because keeping women on birth control is cheaper for them than covering care for pregnant women or women who would have other health problems if they did not take birth control. Insurance companies will find a way to keep the status quo, because it has been helping their balance sheets at least a little. The same goes for the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing the drugs. If anyone believes that they will easily give up their sales over this, they need to rethink their position.

If we’re lucky, the solution to the issue will involve removing both government and employers as brokers between women and access to birth control. Maybe it’s time for women to stop demanding that employers and government hand them their pills, and start demanding better options directly from insurers and pharmaceutical companies?

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Source: Literat Politik

Birth Control, Conscience, and Choice

I am right – you are wrong – right?

“You won’t change my mind.”

This is a statement that is used as a quick stop to just about any debate – political or otherwise. In the American political sphere, it is said by people on both sides of the aisle, and members from both sides regularly accuse the other side of saying it more often.

Which isn’t true.

Both are equally guilty, and usually the statement involves holding onto political “principles,” or otherwise showing complete loyalty to the concepts being promoted by the pundit du jour. And both sides are guilty of holding onto long-standing political philosophies simply for the sake of loyalty, in spite of changing facts on the ground.

For example, on the left, there is the “settled science” of climate change caused by man – an oxymoron on its face, since there is no such thing as “settled science.” Also, in all of the documentation about our changing weather patterns, there is barely (if ever) any mention of other relevant forces, like our sun. When there is talk about reducing carbon emissions, there is no talk about recycling carbon, to create bio-fuel. Perhaps that is somewhat fair, since the “fuel” that can be created like that isn’t particularly suitable for making fuel for our cars, but petrochemicals are everywhere in our society. It is difficult to think that bio-fuel made by algae that is fed with carbon emissions cannot be used to produce something, even if it’s packaging for our “never touched by man” drinking water.

On the right, there is the general thought that the US has too many immigrants. They are taking up all of our jobs, and bringing crime to our shores. Statistically speaking, neither statement is correct, but we still need a wall. The saddest part of this political thinking is that it is assuming that our nation has a cement ceiling restricting economic growth – no matter what we do, there will always be a finite number of jobs and businesses, and sooner or later, we will reach that limit. Presumably, we must reserve that limited resource for people who were born here, and ignore the fact that historically, our nation has enjoyed the greatest levels of economic growth when we have allowed or encouraged immigration.

The problems that we’re facing today as a nation are not simple, but more often than not, solutions to problems lie somewhere in between the political lines we have drawn to divide ourselves. Environmental problems like carbon emissions are more likely to be solved by capitalism, through scientific innovation that is focused on reducing emissions through recycling. We have done a great deal to reduce emissions at this point, and the next step is to find ways to use waste to make something else of value – like plastics from algae. The left won’t suggest that, but people on the right have occasionally been suggesting it.

Fear over job losses and immigrants have been brewing for years, with a steep increase starting after 9/11. While both sides have been battling over this issue, the primary problem with immigration has been largely ignored. Our legal immigration system is broken. There is no point to saying “people need to enter this country legally” when the bureaucracy involved is so flawed, it is nearly impossible. Before we talk about illegal immigrants, we should be demanding that our elected officials fix the legal immigration system, since there’s no point to tackling illegal immigration before that is done. We also need to remember that safety and freedom are not good bedfellows.

Above anything else, we need to stop dismissing potential solutions to problems simply because of the sources. People have political ideologies. Good ideas are non-partisan. Dismissing roughly half of the potential solutions to a given problem only increases the probability that no solution will be found. This radical notion is not about accepting “all” the ideas of anyone on either side of the aisle. It is stating that there is nothing wrong with taking the best bits and pieces of ideas from wherever they are found.

When we were young, we were taught to search for answers from multiple sources. That was meant to be a life-long skill – something all adults should do when faced with a problem to solve. Somewhere along the way, Americans stopped doing that. They chose sides, and allowed the leaders and pundits from their respective places on the political spectrum to spoon feed them information to regurgitate on demand. They created multiple generations of “You can’t change my mind” people. That has left us with massive debt, government as the largest employer (when adding all levels together), and freedom and innovation choking bureaucracies. It’s also left us sitting on one side or the other of a political divide, which only serves one group of people – the professional politicians.

Maybe it’s time to rethink how we’re doing things?

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Source: Literat Politik

I am right – you are wrong – right?

Musings on Writer’s Block

Lately I’ve been coming across more and more people who have been searching for solutions to writer’s block. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or in my inbox, the issue seems to be more prevalent than usual. Of course, my standard advice is to write. It seems counter-intuitive, or even mean. How dare I suggest that someone sit down and write, when they’re telling me that they are unable to write?

The issue of writer’s block really isn’t about an inability to write at all. It’s really about not being able to write what we want at a specific moment in time. Our brains are keeping us from being able to concentrate on a specific bit of work that we want to do. For the fiction writer, maybe that means the characters he wants to write about aren’t “speaking” to him right then. For non-fiction writers like myself, maybe it’s a matter of missing the correct angle, or missing pieces to a puzzle we want to solve for our readers through words. Either way, the problem isn’t an inability to put coherent words together in sentences and paragraphs. It is simply a matter of our brains being too stubborn, and unwilling to focus on what we want at that moment.

So, why would writing in general be useful at that point? How can writing something random (or not so random but on another topic) be useful?

Simply writing helps to clear the mind, and usually makes it possible to focus on what we really want to do. Forcing our minds into submission, and putting words on paper (or the screen) helps. They may be useless words, or they might lead to something that we really want to share. No matter what, it’s training our brains to start producing words on command. Writers who talk about waiting for the muse to appear usually end up producing far less than writers who regularly force themselves to write even when the muse is absent.

The silly, counter-intuitive and mean advice is that writers need to own what they are. Their purpose in life is to write. Writing is not just a job, it is a vocation. The difference between the two is a deep emotional attachment to the work at hand. If you don’t love writing, and consider the concept of forcing yourself to write even when your brain objects a horrible chore, perhaps you should rethink things. You really may not be a writer after all.

Yes, that might seem harsh, but consider the reality. Writing involves dealing with editors, criticism, and often defending what you do in the eyes of the masses. There are rejection letters, rewrites, and all manner of obstacles to face from first draft to finished product. If you’re dealing with writing in the world of media, there is fast-paced work that can sap the creative soul out of the best of us. Writing is not an easy vocation by any stretch of the imagination, and becoming great at it requires a great deal of work and dedication.

Most people are not made for the life of writing, pure and simple.

So, the next time you see someone asking for advice about how to get beyond writer’s block, take a look at the responses. How many of the people offer advice that includes anything but writing? I’m willing to wager that you will see a pile of people suggesting a calm walk, a day off from writing, television binge watching, music (without a keyboard or pen nearby), and any number of other things. They mean well, and very well may be writers who have managed to convince themselves that anything but writing can resolve writer’s block. Of course, you won’t see anyone asking those people how many days they’ve gone without writing, by using all those other activities to break writer’s block. I get tempted to ask sometimes, but I never have. Maybe I will one day.

*The previous has a raw word count of 658 words, written in 15 minutes, using an iPhone timer – to break writer’s block.


Source: Liz Harrison

Musings on Writer’s Block