One Way to Beat Writer’s Block

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” – E.B. White

An editor I know once told me that there is no such thing as writer’s block. “Just sit down at the computer and start putting words on the screen,” he said. His view of the subject was, I think, that if you just start writing something, anything, in time you’ll come up with the right words you need for the article you intend to write.

It’s a little bit like teaching a teenager to drive. I know something about this subject, having spent a fair number of hair-raising hours teaching our five children how to drive.

After each child’s sixteenth birthday, the driving lessons happened — no matter if dinner needed to be cooked, a deadline loomed, or a migraine was beginning to make my head ache. Not ideal conditions, but a 16-year-old without a driver’s license is a powerful motivator.

The lessons took place on vacant streets of our fairgrounds or at a nearby mall on holidays when stores were closed and parking lots deserted. The teens were instructed to start the engine, step on the accelerator and get going. They soon learned the mechanics of driving and parking, laws to be observed and rules of the road, and in time each one graduated to city streets. With stick-to-ittiveness, they, and I, survived the process.

I liken those experiences to starting each new writing assignment. Sometimes I have trouble coming up with the lead I need, but I know that if I just turn on the computer and step on the gas, so to speak, in time I’ll have a lead I can work with and eventually I’ll write the article I’ve promised an editor. Stick-to-ittiveness is the key. (Isn’t stick-to-ittiveness a great word!)

Here’s another quotation about writer’s block, this one by Roy Blount, Jr., author of Crackers, One Fell Soup and other books.

“I think writer’s block is simply the dread that you are going to write something horrible. But as a writer, I believe that if you sit down at the keys long enough, sooner or later something will come out.”

I think he and E.B. White both had it right.

© 2008 Laverne Daley

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