Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A small case of writer's block

One thing I once told myself could never happened actually happened. Because I am profoundly deaf, with no hearing aid (YET!), I figured I would never be able to enjoy something other parents of small children enjoy: Having their child tell THEM a story.

But my daughter, Jennifer, is VERY patient with me when she tells me her stories. She tells them the same way she talks to me: Very slowly, using occasional signs, looking directly at me and saying each word very clearly. Thanks to her patience, I, too, can enjoy "hearing" her stories.

Sometimes, she will write out her stories. Sometimes, she'll create little books by stapling pages together then drawing pictures to illustrate her stories. Or, sometimes, she'll just sit there and tell me her story.

And I love every minute of it. Yes, as a writer myself, I have to confess that my prodigy following in my footsteps of making up stories fills me with pride. But I really marvel over how well she puts together her stories and just figures it all out. Her stories have a beginning, middle and end. They have conflict and tension. They have subplots and good characterization (even with the antagonists). I have to credit her for being a very good storyteller for only being 6 years old.

Well, in her short time of writing stories, it appears that, today, Jennifer experienced something every single writer in the whole world experiences: Writer's block. Of all things!

After sharing with me one story she drew out, about a horse and a unicorn, she sat at the table with paper and marker and set to work on her next masterpiece. She got as far as drawing a horse (ANOTHER horse story!) then stopped, tapping her chin with her marker in that universal way EVERY single stumped writer will do.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

She looked at me and shrugged. "I can't figure out what to put in my story next."

I held back my laughter, instead letting my grin out. I shook my head, marvelling over the whole thing. Part of me was angry, wanting to whine, "She's too young to have writer's block!" Whatever happened to a limitless supply of creativity which only a child can possess? Whatever happened to breaking the rules or making up new things if only to keep the story going?

At the same time, I had to wonder. Was she already starting to censor her words? Was she already stopping in mid-story to correct any mistakes made so far? Was my own case of trying to figure out what should happen next in MY story, which I am writing now, starting to rub off on my child?

Still, despite these concerns, I found this situation humorous. How unusual for a child so young to have writer's block! Would she even understand what writer's block is?

Was it even writer's block?....

Noticing my reaction, Jennifer looked at me and asked, "What?"

Finally, I said it. "You're too young to have writer's block." And the laughter came.

She frowned at me. "But I'm not writing. I'm drawing."

I shrugged. "Same thing. You're still creating a story. You're trying to figure out what happens next in your story."

"I don't know what happens next," she complained.

"Just let the story play out in your mind. Think about what your character will do next." Then I corrected myself. "What your HORSE will do next." I didn't know what other advice to give her. Certainly not MY habit of pacing back and forth in the kitchen when I have writer's block. (Ha!) But this is another thing that I do when I get blocked. And, usually, it works. Or, sometimes, I'll shift the POV or act the scene out. But I thought maybe this piece of advice was the best one to give her for this particular occasion.

After some thinking, that lightbulb went off over her head and, once again, she was off. The next scene in her story involved a bear attacking the horse. Ah, the plot thickens.

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  • At 12:14 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    aww thats cute! Well when I have writers block I just try to "see" the story as a movie in my head. I remove myself as creator and just "watch the movie". Then I see what happens and write it down. If it doesnt work, I "rewind and watch again!"

    Tell your daughter to visualize the picture coming to life and what would it do next. Tell her to try to imagine its a real cartoon playing out on TV, a TV set up in her mind.

  • At 3:25 PM , Blogger Jana B said...

    OMW!!!!!!! I have never heard of a kid that age not only writing and drawing stories that make sense, but even doing it to the point that she has writers block... LOL That rocks!!!!!!!!

  • At 10:22 AM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    Thanks, Jana. :) I know, I'm psyched about it!

    Nancy, that is actually really good advice! Thank you SO MUCH!! I think I'll try that next time this happens and see how it goes.


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