Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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November 3, 2014

5 Signs You Have the Dreaded "Turkey Block"

Thanksgiving_TurkeyNaNoWriMo is here, which means my birthday is coming and our American Thanksgiving is at the end of the month. In other words, the holidays are upon us, which often leads to stress for writers.

I reserved my organic grass-fed turkey yesterday. (Yes, I know. I'm from California, okay?) As always, the minute I reserve that glistening gobbler, my stress-meter cranks to high.

My holiday confession: I am deathly afraid to take responsibility for the bird. Really, really afraid. Like heart-pounding-faster-than-a-caffeinated-writer-on-deadline afraid.

Obviously, I have a whopping case of the dreaded "Turkey Block."

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this malady, it's like writer's block...only instead of a fear of the page, it's a fear of the bird.

My big brother (we call him the Bag Whore), talks about his Thanksgiving Bird like it's his holiday love muffin: rubbing it with butter, seasoning it...BRINING it, for Pete's sake. I can't listen to him. And right now, at William's Sonoma, there's a whole freaking wall dedicated to the bird. An. Entire. Wall.

It's wigging me out.

I can't take the responsibility of being in charge of the main event. I just can't. So I pawned it off on Hubby. I even got him a "brining kit," although I'm not exactly sure what it is.

Hubby is tasked with The Bird and I have everything else. I'd rather make sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry fluff, mashed potatoes, stuffing and three pies than do ONE turkey.

[See? Turkey Block.]

I saw a post with the five main symptoms of writer's block and I have ALL FIVE when it comes to The Turkey. I'll put them below so you can see what I mean, and heap sympathy upon me in my time of need.

Symptom #1: No Ideas

If you are stuck and have no ideas, it is probably because you started in writing, prepping your bird, without doing the ground work of brainstorming and planning.

Remedy: Give the job to your spouse. If you're single, invite someone like The Bag Whore to your feast.

Symptom #2: Boredom

Either you have chosen a topic turkey you are not particularly interested in, or you've been assigned a topic bird you just don't care much about. Either way, you are stuck because you are bored with your topic turkey.

Remedy: Give the job to your spouse. Or run to the internet. Pray if you need to.

Symptom #3: Lack of Confidence

If you feel you aren't qualified to do the writing turkey, you will be stuck from the onset. You may worry that your grammar gobbler technique isn't good enough or you have poor spelling basting skills. You may be hearing criticisms in your head from previous attempts at writing turkey-making.

Remedy: Give the job to your spouse. Or open wine. Lots and lots of wine.

Symptom #4: Anxiety

When you are full of anxiety about something, you feel agitated, fidgety, jittery. Your mind goes in every possible direction except to the task at hand.


Remedy: Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet, dimly lit space. Close your eyes and settle your breathing. Then picture yourself doing the required writing turkey. Don't think about the content bird that needs to be written conquered, only see yourself writing conquering said gobbler. Notice details surrounding you and the turkey...Then notice how you feel about the image and how the person you see feels. Sit with this image for as long as you can.

[I'm pretty much calling crapola on that "remedy."]

Symptom #5: Stress

When stress has its grip, you can't think straight. You can't even begin to sit still and do some writing turkey-wrestling.

Remedy: Have a pre-writing pre-bird ritual that helps you to slow down and relax. Know in advance where you plan to write cook and prepare your space. Make it free of clutter and get out your supplies and materials. Then do some physical activity to relax your muscles and clear your mind. Take several deep breaths and do some long, slow stretches.

[So really, they're saying: "Have some sex instead of worrying about your turkey."]

Addendum: Nope. Not working. I'm still thinking about having to look my guests in the eye and apologize for a dry pitiful turkey.

Remedy: Give the job to your spouse. Make TONS of gravy. Drink more wine.

 *  *  *  *  *  *

So there you have it...the five symptoms of Turkey Block and my remedies. Whether you're thinking about your bird or your manuscript, I promise you will break through to the other side.

Have you conquered the Turkey Frontier? What are your secrets? Enquiring minds (and my husband) would love to hear them!

About Jenny Hansen

By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes news articles, humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 18+ years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm.

33 comments on “5 Signs You Have the Dreaded "Turkey Block"”

  1. My turkey remedy . . . give it to my spouse . . .or go to Mom's. Fortunately, my hubby actually likes to cook and does a great job.
    My writing remedy . . . put it off til tomorrow then try again. That doesn't work nearly as well as the turkey remedy, but my husband has no interest in writing.

    1. Kate, you lucky girl! You've got a mama who will make you turkey!! And a nice spouse. It's a shame our husbands can't write for us on those bad days, isn't it?

  2. I almost got stuck with having Thanksgiving this year. My MIL thankfully saw my "deer in the headlights" look and found a cousin to take it on instead. At age 50, my mom was a Turkey pro - homemade cranberry and stuffing, real mashed potatoes and gravy - the whole shiznit. At age 50, I can barely handle opening a can of green beans. So yeah - major fear of the bird here. Thanks for the Monday morning laugh! 🙂

    1. Your mother-in-law sounds like a fine woman, Sue. A fine, fine woman. And not knowing how to cook can get you out of a lot of holidays. I've always said you were a smart lady. 🙂

  3. Yes, sorry to say I don't have anyone to pass the responsibility of the turkey off to, except to a place that would prepare the turkey for me and I take it home to heat it up. That's actually a very popular option down here in Florida since a lot of people here are snowbirds by November and they aren't going to be cooking for lots of people anyway.
    Same with the writing, although I can't go to a store and buy a plot point. My best remedies for writer's block are: either work on something else, like a short story, or sleep on it, because I might dream up a good work around for where I'm stuck while sleeping.

    1. SB, I can't tell you how many times I've considered going to Honeybaked Ham for my bird, or buying a Turducken. But tradition always wins out, and I order the turkey. Then the angst begins, so I buy more wine. 🙂

  4. After I'd served my family a facsimile of the turkey in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation for a couple of years, my husband stepped in and took over Turkey Duties. I'm still in charge of brining, but then he takes the bird and throws it on the smoker. Even my mother-in-law has relinquished her turkey-making to my son. She always served the perfect bird each Thanksgiving, but now she just gives it to my son who deep-fries it. Neither she nor I planned this, but I must say it's working out well for all involved! Unfortunately, I can't pass off the writing to The Hubs when I hit a wall. When that happens I just sit down and write something on the story. Anything. It's usually five or six crapola paragraphs that'll have to be deleted later, but after a day or two of this I'll feel the story start to come back to me and the words start to flow again. I guess it's kind of like throwing the writing on the smoker for a while!

    1. Juli, NO! You went through the So-Dry-Ass-It's-Comical turkey phase? That is just awful. That is my fear. But you, my brave friend, you have already conquered that phase. I'm so impressed.

      For writing, I just keep writing crap too. Or I write something else. Eventually, the story comes back. 🙂

  5. The remedy for all of those should be "give it to the spouse." Except I did that one year. We ended up with Black Turkey Day. And an emergency run to the grocery store. Then I had to explain to the then 7 year old why the turkey shrank (that emergency run to the grocery? Yeah, the last sad chicken).

    1. Your hubs has a Black Turkey thumb? That is so sad. Way to go on fooling your kid though. It's a great thing he was young. 🙂

      I'd peg you for a turkey expert, Orly. Truly. And you know the funniest part? I make a mean baked chicken. Some day I'll get up the nerve to attack the "big bird." Just not today.

  6. ROFL. I totally get this!

    And actually, I'd say that with turkeys and writing, both blocks can be helped by practice, practice, practice. The more turkeys/writing you do, the more you will think, "Okay, this ain't easy, but I can do it!"

    If all else fails, I suggest re-reading The Little Engine that Could and murmuring, "I think I can, I think I can..." in between sips of wine.

    1. Look at you, O' Wise Julie! Yes, practice makes perfect. But since I've got the hubs doing it, I don't have to worry on it any more. That's a much better practice. I have enough to worry on in the month of November. 🙂

  7. Jenny, thanks for my morning LOL. I overcame the problem by force of will (no one to task the job to). Thanksgiving is my VERY FAVORITE holiday, so if I feel the stress coming on I open another bottle of wine. I have been known to make reservations, but for the most part the turkey is a pretty forgiving bird.

    1. "..for the most part the turkey is a pretty forgiving bird." <-- This part slayed me, DeNise. Thank you for MY Monday morning snicker. It was delightful. 🙂 Thanksgiving is my husband's favorite holiday too!

  8. You always cracked me up with your 'turkey angst', Jenny! A turkey is really easy - it's getting everything hot and on the table at the last minute that is the scramble!

    Drink wine, relax - and thank God you have a great hubby.

    1. I thank God every day I have a great hubby. That's a given. And I don't have any trouble with the "everything hot" part. It's the PRESSURE of a juicy turkey. Someday I'll buy a turkey fryer so I can relax. 🙂

  9. KA-SNORT on your fear of serving turkey jerky. On the bright side, you might be able to market it to health conscious back-packers. I would have said hunters, but you live in California where fruit flies are a protected species. (No offense to California. GREAT state.)

    Call me crazy. It's OK. I'm used to it. I agonize more over the mashed potatoes being fluffy and the bread stuffing turning out tasty and moist.

    This year, we gifted our big smoker to my stepson. He's smoking the turkey. (Pause for happy dance.) My DIL assigned a few side dishes to me: the gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, homemade rolls, banana pudding, cherry cobbler and pecan pie.

    AAAAARGH! I'll have to buy and roast turkey parts for that gravy.

  10. You're not going to go over there and rip the giblets out of their turkey, Gloria? Those and the neck are the key to the yummy turkey gravy. 🙂 (I included a link to some recipes.)

    Sooooo, this begs the real question: Will you come make gluten free banana pudding and cherry cobbler for me and my tribe in California? After the holidays is fine!

    1. You, bet, Jenny. Erm. Do they make gluten free Nilla Wafers?

      I'm not sure I'll get to that turkey in time, so it's honking big turkey legs to the roasting pan.

      WHOOP! I lied. Looked at my list and I'm also in charge of scalloped pineapple to go with the ham WE ARE BUYING.

      Why am I suddenly not so grateful for that smoked-by-someone-else turkey?

      1. I am positive they do make GF Nilla Wafers (although I miss the real thing). And WTH is scalloped pineapple? Is this a Southern thing?

        p.s. I am a tremendous fan of buying spiral-cut hams.
        p.p.s. You aren't so grateful now because you're getting HOSED on this food-prep deal. 🙂

  11. You slay me, Jenny! For several years now I've taken the easy way out - there's a local BBQ place (yeah, I know, how Southern) that smokes the turkey and makes a killer dressing and sweet potato casserole. Worth every penny.

    1. Where you do you live, Deb? I need to get in on that local smoked turkey deal!! And I'm glad I slay you, because you do the same for me. I can't WAIT for all that "football lingo!!"

  12. I live in Alabama - home of the Mighty Crimson Tide. 15 National championships, most SEC championships and NCAA bowl championships than any other college football program in America. Post coming!

    1. I hold you totally responsible for this, Jenny! Once you get her started on her bloated, arrogant spoiled team, there will be no end. You've been warned.

      Those with good taste, prefer Texas A&M, the best damned team in the SEC.

      Deb, remember - we've never been beaten - only outscored. A lot.

  13. Love this! I struggle between lack of confidence and anxiety with my writing. Finally converting to plotting took care of most of the rest of the issues.

    When it comes to turkeys, I've got that covered. My father in law makes a killer turkey every year. We cook it at our house, but he comes over, rubs it up with butter, snuggles it in a big paper bag, waves his hands and says the incantation, pops it in the oven and, poof, a few hours later we have falling off the bone tender turkey. Nom nom nom. 😀

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