Business Magazine

Overcoming Writer’s Block

By Frederickjgoodall @goodallcreative

photo_23445_20130208There are few things scarier to  writer than a blank screen. Staring at that screen has a way of drawing out all of our insecurities and anxieties. Am a good enough? What if I can’t think of anything to say? Do I deserve to call myself a writer?

I experience these feelings periodically. I can still hear my mother’s voice in the back of my head warning me not to pursue this profession, but to go to college and get a real job instead. When these negative thoughts start to overwhelm me, I take a deep breath and think about a professor who encouraged me to pursue my passion.

Dr. Miller was an old-school professor who demanded excellence and pushed us beyond our comfort zones. Each week, we’d have to write a timed essay. I tackled the first one with arrogance. Finishing before everyone else, I slapped it on Dr. Miller’s desk mocking my fellow students who struggled through the assignment.

Dr. Miller handed the papers back a few days later. Scrawled across the top of my essay was a crimson  “C.” I was disappointed, but not discouraged. On the next essay, I was intent on making a bigger impression.

Managing to use every polysyllabic word in my arsenal, I breezed through the next paper and turned it in with a sly grin. But my smile didn’t last long after my work garnered another  “C.”

Now I was discouraged. I went to Dr. Miller’s office to find out what her problem was.

“I like your writing,” she said in her raspy voice. “But you concentrate too much on your style instead of your content and mechanics. You need to relax and just write.”  She was correct. Having this preconceived notion of how a writer should write, I tried to dazzle her with my vocabulary and astound her with my wit.

I took heed and let my next paper flow naturally. It was about a little boy from my neighborhood who equated murder with manhood.  This essay earned me my first “A.”

After class, Dr. Miller pulled me aside and said,  “You really should try to get that essay published.”

“It’s not that good,” I said. “Besides, I don’t know how to get anything published.”

“It is that good,” she said. “And to prove it to you, I’ll help your find a publisher.”

With Dr. Miller’s guidance, I submitted that piece to several magazines. However, my enthusiasm waned as rejection letters poured in. My ego was crushed, as was my confidence in my writing ability. I began to wonder if being a writer was an unattainable goal for an inner-city kid.

I had nearly forgotten about the piece when I opened the mailbox to discover a letter from Urban Profile magazine. I wasn’t very enthusiastic about opening it since I was sure it would be another rejection. But when I read:  “Dear Sir, We would like to publish your piece…” my hands began to tremble. I read it over and over to make sure the words wouldn’t disappear.

When the article was published, I showed it to Dr. Miller and thanked her for believing in me. But the best feeling was when my mother read it and said, “Good job.”

Since then, I have written for several publications, but that first article will always be special to me. I’ve posted a copy of it on the wall above my workstation. I look at that article and I know I’m a writer. It gives me the courage to overcome writer’s block and write without fear.

cropped-Frederick-J-Goodall-copy.jpg

What are some of your tips for overcoming writer’s block?

photo via freerangestock.com


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