The Stuck Writers
One is a woman I've known for some time who came to me for advice. While taking GED classes she found that she enjoyed writing, and her teacher encouraged her.
An episode from some time before, when she distinctly felt God's protection on a trip by train, kept coming to her mind. She decided to write it up and offer it to the CLP Sunday school papers.
I looked it over, at her request. I suggested a few changes, which she was happy to make. She sent it off with that wild high-risk I-can't-believe-I'm-doing-this feeling of sending off That First Submission.
And then of course she waited tensely for a response, imagining the best and worst.
The letter came. Her story was rejected.
So was she, it seemed, somewhere down deep where the words and the imagination and the hope sprang forth. A solid plug was pushed into that well, and it has never brought forth water since.
It has been years. Every time I talk to her, we talk about Writing. She follows my attempts and successes with great interest. I always, ask, hesitantly, "Have you been able to write anything?" And always the answer is no. She cannot get anything out, in any form or way.
I always wonder, what would it take to uncork that well and bring the words forth?
Yesterday I was at the county fair, as I am every year. I sat there for six hours, dressed for the 97 degrees in a glassy atrium without A/C that I was expecting, and instead we were in another area that was so hyper-A/Ced that I had goose bumps and my asthma went crazy.
And I only sold 3 books, so maybe the less said about those six hours, the better.
Except I had some fascinating conversations, including one with a fan who came by who turned out to be another Stuck Writer. This lady was obviously an astute reader, analyzing various authors and what she likes or dislikes about each. She dreams at night of plot lines and possible characters.
But she doesn't write. Back in high school she rather enjoyed writing. One day her English teacher told them to write a story. She had happened to read a story around that time and thought, "You know what, that just follows a formula. I could do that." So she used the same formula but wrote her own story.
The teacher read her story and said it was so good she must have copied it somewhere and she was guilty of plagiarism.
The student showed the teacher the original story and told her what she'd done. The teacher finally believed her and said that was perfectly ethical and she had done very well.
But something about the trauma of being accused in this way capped her well, and she hasn't written since. She just can't, not even in the privacy of her own notebook, for her own enjoyment.
So terribly sad.
For both of these women, this is far more than "writers block" which is temporary and which many writers say doesn't exist--it's just laziness. This is far deeper.
1. What would it take to get these women to start writing again?
2. Have I, God forbid, by an offhand criticism, ever capped the well for a beginning writer?
Quote of the Day:
"You look younger than I thought you would."
--several people at the fair. Somehow I never tire of hearing this. It compensated a little bit for the poor sales.