The time had come. I had finally created a blog. I had been wanting to for months—years, really. I realize I am not the most creative writer; my strengths are in creating (generally dry, structured) curriculum, not poetry…and I certainly don’t consider myself witty. I finally told myself that this was okay and that I would just write. No matter how dry, for now. I have had so many ideas floating in my head about what I would like to say—so many tips, ideas, and stories I wanted to share. And this was the time: time to post my first words of wisdom….and….nothing. I had nothing. Nada. I had spent days trying to think about the meaningfulness of my first real post. I wanted to make it right—just the right combination of wit and wisdom. Something that everyone would want to read and share with all their friends and colleagues. But nothing was coming…not even something less than brilliant. So that was it. I had Writer’s Block. My blogging brilliance was over and I would have to apologize to the world that I had nothing to offer at this very moment—and maybe never again. And then it occurred to me. That was it. Writer’s Block…that’s what I would write about.
Was there really such a thing? Or is it an excuse that we have created to get out of doing something we don’t want to do? I can remember hearing countless times from students who had not done the essay I had assigned, claiming to have the affliction. I know I wasn’t the first—nor would I be the last to “suffer” from this debilitating “disease,” right? Surely everyone who has had to sit down and write something has felt this at one point? So, I decided to make it my mission to find out. What is Writer’s Block, does it really exist, and how do we get past it?
Note: Before I get into writing my blog on a regular basis, it is crucial that I mention that besides my job as President of Secondary Solutions, I also pay my bills by writing the aforementioned curriculum. And, although I make a living as a writer, I rely very heavily on my editor: a luxury I don’t have with this blog. So please forgive my mistakes, misspellings, bad grammar, incorrect words, or misplaced modifiers and obvious problems with tense I see as I scan back on what I have written so far. I am writing from the heart.
I decided to start my search online, looking for the technical definition of “writer’s block.” According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary at http://www.merriam-webster.com the term “writer’s block” is a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece. So it was psychological—not physiological. In other words, I was still capable of physically writing down words and phrases and maybe even sentences, but it was my mental process—my behavior—that was keeping me locked up. As I continued my search, I came across a great blog entry by 43folders.com (aka Merlin Mann) that completely changed my perspective. The blog is entitled “Hack your way out of writer’s block.” After I read the article and considered the difference between psychology and physiology I suddenly remembered how I used to tell my students who were stuck and felt they couldn’t write to just “throw up on the page.” I know it sounds vulgar, but I just wanted them to write—anything. I reminded them that it was not important to use “big” words, and that no matter how good of a writer they were, they were going to have to go back and edit at least once or twice—if not more. So, I told them to stop being their worst critic and to just allow themselves to be brilliant or to fail miserably. Either way, they had words on the page and could go somewhere with that. They were physically capable of writing, it was just their mental processes (usually an inner critic) that hindered them. And that’s exactly where I was.
I had to stop being my worst critic (one of my daily struggles), and had to force myself to allow the words to escape my brain and flow to my fingertips. I had to stop censoring my words and had to allow myself to just write. I had to get out of my own way and allow myself to be brilliant or fail miserably. And here I am. Done. It may not be the most captivating articles for my first real blog, but it was a meaningful one, and one that I am sure I will refer to often in this endeavor.
Do you or your students need help with writer’s block? Here are some online resources I came across that might be helpful.
Webook.com: http://www.webook.com/911writersblock (For fiction writers, this site even gives you specific plot and character points like “An art opening at a lavish downtown gallery. A car crashes through the plate glass window. The driver’s door opens, and an eight-year-old girl steps out.” to get you back on track!)
Writer’sworld.com: Writer’s Block: Is It All in Your Head? A nice article by Leslie What exploring the technical aspects of writer’s block, plus tips and hints.
Perdue Online Writing Lab: Symptoms and Cures for Writer’s Block
Io9.com: “Nasty case of writer’s block creates the most brilliant scientific paper ever.” This was hilarious, and says it all.