And we’re back! It wasn’t planned. It, well, just happened. We were on a roll, moving right along, and then we hit..a…wall. (Mae is awkwardly avoiding my pleas to help a madre out and write something…anything…even in crayon.)

Writer’s block…yes, it’s really a thing. It happens to all writers (or so I’m told) at some point. It smacked me right in the face this past August. I know why it happened, but I just didn’t know how to get back on track. I spent the past four months staring out the window, scrolling through my social media feeds, and looking for inspiration wherever I thought I could find it. Footnote: it’s not in the closet, under the bed, or hiding behind the toilet. Trust me, I’ve looked.

My mind was foggy. My heart was heavy, and the cookies in the pantry called my number way too many times for me to ignore. I. Just. Could. Not. Write. So I did what other writers suggested I do: focused on another creative outlet until the urge to surge returned. You’re kidding, right? Nope. I even got a smack on the ass and turned around toward the photography section of the bookstore <sigh>. Sometimes I pick the strangest mentors: “Take some pictures…hell, I’ll pose for ya…” Yeah, I’m gonna pass, but thanks for the offer.

Then, I did something different. I went…rote. Yep, not rogue, rote. In the spirit of typical 2020 doldrum syndrome, I established new rote routines that kept my hands and head busy so I wouldn’t lose my mind, in hopes that I would find that damn key to unlock my block. I tried everything (repeatedly): cleaning, sorting, folding, furniture rearranging. O.M.G.!!! Blank paper. Blank screen. Blankety blank blank blank (words cannot be printed here).

But then it happened. I realized this week that I missed a couple of de-cluttering opportunities and finally took the time to clean out the filing cabinets in my office, and that’s when the magic showed up. Locked away in those cold, metal drawers (still talking about the filing cabinets here) were the writings of my past. I read and reread them again and again. Term papers, Capstone projects, dissertations, chapters of unwritten books, all looking up at me with “we missed you” reflecting back at me.

I took my samplings with me to the bookstore and slapped them down on the coffee-shop table. “Here, read these. Tell me what you think, but be gentle. Some of these pages are 40 years old.” (He thought I wanted him to be gentle with me.) “Look, Mia, you’ve always been a gifted communicator. You just forgot who you are because you’ve been too busy being what everyone else wanted you to be. Stop being afraid to be MIA. I like Mia. She’s like Fireball meets Tornado when she’s in her zone.” I really hate it when he does that to me, reminding me that I used to be a sharp-tongued word slayer.

So now what? What do I do? “I haven’t written like that in YEARS,” I said. The smirky smile that came across his face was a prelude to the smart-assery that was about to cross his lips. “Well, I would suggest that you get to tapping some keys sweet cheeks, cuz them bestsellers and social-change agents aren’t gonna write themselves.” Sass. That’s sass, right?

He picked up his backpack and said, “I’ll see you in two weeks. I’m going to the woods for a while. When I get back, I want to see two things: the return of that spark in your eyes and some F-ing black text on white paper. So bring me your best show and don’t forget, I graded some of your greatest work, so stop reading so much of everyone else’s works. You don’t write like them because you’re NOT LIKE THEM. Write YOU!” He zipped up his soft-shell jacket, pulled his ball cap down to shade his eyes, and turned back only to wink at me as he headed to his truck in the parking lot and out of town. Like I said, I pick the strangest mentors.

I took one last look as he drove off and turned back to my paper piles to pack them up. Suddenly I felt a new inspired wave of emotion come over me. It was as if my soul had returned from a long-needed vacation, abruptly slamming itself back inside my body. Writer’s block unlocked. I always had the key.

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