Beating off writer’s block with a stick

Some people feel that where there is writing, there is writer’s block. I am not one of these people. My favorite quote about writer’s block comes from Marshall J. Cook: “People who can’t afford to have writer’s block don’t get it. That tells you everything you need to know about writer’s block.”

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting Neptune Middle School where the students were concerned about the time constraints and seemingly impossible essay prompts on the NJASK tests. We went over what a good essay was, but I think the most valuable thing that I taught them that day was that they could pull a story out of anything, at any time, if they believed in themselves enough.

Joyce Carol Oates wrote, “Writer’s block is a temporary paralysis caused by the conviction, on an unconscious level, that what the writer is attempting is in some way fraudulent, or mistaken, or self-destructive.”

As writers we do doubt ourselves. A lot. It’s no different than a student sitting in an exam with the time ticking away. We need to remember that what we have to say is important enough.  Then we need to say it. And even if we get to the desk and find that no words are coming, we should write anyway because I’ve found that once I put down one word, in comes another, and another, until it’s so fast, I can barely keep up.

R.L. Stine once said, “I’ve never had a day where I couldn’t write 15 pages. Some days it’s horrible, some days I don’t know what language it’s in. But I know I’ll go back and fix it up.” And that’s the real way to end writer’s block. It seems totally counter-intuitive, and unbelievably simplistic, but you end it by writing. Even if it’s utterly horrendous. Just write.


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