Junkyard Mind

My brain has become a rusty scrapyard. There’s no movement besides the occasional tumbleweed rolling through. And this is really inconvenient, because I need to find something to write about.

Every month, I’m scheduled to send one 600ish word column to my local newspaper. The subject can be literally anything under the sun: the editor only asks that it be “a reprieve from politics.”

Easy enough, right? For someone who enjoys writing as much as I do, it should be a piece of cake. Well … it’s not.

The column is supposed to be in the general-interest/heartwarming-story category. There are three other columnists besides me, all middle-aged women who seem to have a lot more to say than I do. Each month as my deadline creeps closer, like clockwork, I get stuck finding a topic.

I just want what I write to be relatable to the newspaper’s readers. But this is difficult, because my mind is a junkyard.

I’m not being self-deprecating. I enjoy hanging out among my thoughts. Yet I have trouble finding anything that could be of value to others. Plenty of scrap, but it hasn’t been sorted and recycled. Lots of parts and pieces, but they don’t quite fit together. And I haven’t been around long enough to discover a valuable antique among the debris.

The writing itself isn’t the challenge. I’m not trying to be funny or profound. My goal is simply to be clear and mildly interesting. But how can I achieve that when I don’t know what the heck to say?

I seem to go through three phases when I’m in the process of finding a topic:

First, the “research” stage. This consists of reading about whatever random thing I find intriguing at the moment. I will even justify watching a TV show as “preliminary investigation” for my column. The problem is that the content I’m consuming is usually neither heartwarming nor of general interest.

Next I move into the “Chorecrastination” phase. I meticulously tidy my physical surroundings in an attempt to declutter my mental space. I organize the dresser and scour the stovetop and scrub the shower. The house gets immaculate which is nice, but I’m no closer to finding a topic.

Finally, I look at the calendar and see that the day to submit is only a few squares away. I can’t avoid it anymore. I have to send something. So I go into salvage mode. If my brain is a collection of fragments, all I can do is weed through the rubbish and hope I can uncover something worthy of sharing.

This month, I got lucky. My column is getting printed April 22nd so I have the opportunity to write something Earth Day themed. Check back soon to see what I managed to come up with from the junkyard of my mind.

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