Originally published in 2018.

The research on Bluefield includes hours of interviews with elders of the villages, some of whom have since passed on; water and soil samples to determine if nature is the cause of so much cancer deaths and diagnoses; and the journal entries I wrote documenting my mother’s fight with colon cancer.

It’s about five years worth of research sitting in front of me. And although I am a poet, my spirit is telling me that prose is how I should tell this story.

This writing project is scary. Terrifying.

I am stuck at start, unclear on how I should proceed. One thing I do know for sure is that I must push through it. Even if I’m writing bad prose. Even if I write three or four consecutive bad pieces. The story of Bluefield is too important not to be told. I must start somewhere. Put my head down and put in the work.

For the most part, I am obsessed with the end product.

To shift into start, I need to focus on the process and not the product. I am over-thinking it; I need to just write, write.

Two main steps I need to get me there are:

  1. Set a specific goal. I need to make myself write a certain amount of words everyday. Even if they are bad, the act of writing will get me into a practice will lead to good writing.
  2. Turn the TV off. Turn the computer on, but don’t allow social media to distract me or take an hour to catch up on email.

I would not diagnose this as writer’s block, but I do wonder about its origins?

What is this fear that reaches inside of me and tells me that I am not enough? Not able to write another good poem, not able to write a book of prose

This story I am trying to tell is what I want people to see about the little corner of the world I called home for most of my life. The process of how I get there is the hard part; it is less visible. The work that seems so effortless when we are reading a finished book in our hands is hours of a writer carefully crafting each sentence.

When I did my interviews for this project, Mrs. Everlina Jacobs was one of the first people I interviewed in 2012. She and her husband Mr. Pete Jacobs were also the first to settle in Bluefield. Something she said in her interview stays with me to this day: “And we moved here in ’63, and I ain’t left since. I ain’t planning on leaving until God calls me. I’ma be right here.”

She had resolve.

Her and Mr. Pete must have been scared being Black people in a still segregated South Carolina who were homeowners for the first time; having rattlesnakes crossing the road from the tobacco barn; having to clear the woods from the land where they would build their first home, the only home they would have until their deaths.

They had never owned their own land until they did.

We all have goals, dreams, and wishes. And we also have what seems like an insurmountable mountain that stands between these desires and ourselves. Some of us want to start our own businesses, some of us want to save the environment, some of us want to see justice where there is injustice.

We all have heart work we need to bring into this world.

And like the Jacobs, we all must press through and press on. And begin: Now.

6 responses to “Stuck at Start”

  1. Dr. Linda W. Silvernail Avatar
    Dr. Linda W. Silvernail

    You’ve begun, Jenni — right here with Ms. Everlina and Mr. Pete — you know he first rule is just start writing. . . the rest will come. . . you can move it around, change the wording, add and delete later. . . for now, just write. Can’t wait to read it all!


  2. Martha Eldridge Avatar
    Martha Eldridge

    Hi Jenn, I love what you are doing and I support you all the way Sweetie. Keep writing and uncovering whatever it is that’s happening/happen there. Much Love!!


  3. Kwame McLean Avatar
    Kwame McLean

    That’s the beginning of a documentary !!Enjoy the process!!


  4. Alzena Avatar

    Love this, Jen! A quick and engaging read! ❤


  5. Regina Smeltzer Avatar

    Jennifer, absolutely beautiful prose. Yes, you are called to tell a story only you can tell. Write on my friend!


  6. How Do You Write? – Jennifer Bartell Avatar

    […] Stuck at Start, A Quick Note Rejection, What Follows Rejection, A Quick Note on Hopeful Rejection, or Writing as […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: