Building Blocks (How long is a writer’s block?)


Time molds vivid memories from one’s past into the building blocks of one’s writing…


I have been trying to write a fictional crime novel set in 1972-1984 Baltimore, Maryland.  And since the story has a distinct Irish connection, I set March 17th as my goal for the first draft.  Obviously, even listening to Dropkick Murphys in the background for some very, very robust get-a-pen-to-paper inspiration, I am going to miss my target date by many a mile.  Yep, writer’s block.

Nevertheless, in typical Steve writing style as I sat at the dinning room table this morning, instead of full brain power on the novel, I kept thinking, “How long is a ‘writer’s block’?”

Now you are probably wondering why this is important knowledge for writers.  Simply, I hate it when those NCIS or Law and Order characters can walk, or drive, from one location to another in Olympic gold medal time.  Should one of my novel’s characters start walking along St. Paul Street, I want to consider how long this would actually take for a real life person who is similar to the character.  This knowledge is necessary for me to construct logical action and atmosphere.

Growing up in a city, I learned that a standard city block was of specific length.  Thus, depending on the city, there are X number of standard city blocks to a mile.  Note that it is not constant to have X standard blocks in a row.  I was also required as a Boy Scout to know how many telephone poles were in a country mile; approximately 42. Guess now it would be ‘how many text messages’ are in a city or country mile.

The answer to the standard length of a Baltimore writer’s block is 660 feet, or 1/8 of a mile.

However, as mentioned, the distance varies.  A September 17, 2006 New York Times item. Knowing the Distance, by Michael Pollak, tells us:

“Depends on which way you’re walking.  North-south is easy: about 20 blocks to a mile. The annual Fifth Avenue Mile, for example, is a race from 80th to 60th Street.  The distance between avenues is more complicated. In general, one long block between the avenues equals three short blocks, but the distance varies, with some avenues as far apart as 920 feet.  John Tauranac, in the “Manhattan Block by Block” street atlas, gives the average distance between avenues as 750 feet, or about seven avenues to a mile.”

OK, I think I’ll skip running the Fifth Avenue Mile and go back to listening to Dropkick Murphys.

Think about your ‘building blocks’; we can not write without them.


2 thoughts on “Building Blocks (How long is a writer’s block?)

    • Thanks for the suggestion Mike, but Boston is way too far above the Mason Dixon Line for me; besides, the Dropkick Murphys’ St. Patricks’ Day show sold out ages ago.

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