It’s happened more times than I can count. We sit down to start our writing project and at least one child cannot come up with a single word to say. They stare at the page and seem to have forgotten how to form words. Learning to communicate through writing is hard, but what do you do when your child has writer’s block and no words will come out?
Ironically, as I sat down to write about Writer’s Block, I could think of nothing I wanted to say on the topic. Was it because I was projecting the topic on myself or was it because I really had a mental block? Truthfully, I think it was because I was tired. It had been a long week that came after a long month, and it was not getting any shorter. I was barely getting all my ducks in a row and trying to share my thoughts on a topic as broad as Writer’s Block in Your Children just didn’t appear to be happening.
I decided to take what I know about Writer’s Block and put it to work for me. But, what do I know about how to get the creative writing juices flowing? I started with the most trusted resources I had on hand – my high school creative writing journal and my copy of The Writer’s Jungle by Julie Bogart. If these two tomes of creative writing couldn’t help me, then I needed to go back to bed.
How to Release Your Child’s Thoughts When They Have Writer’s Block
Step 1: Uncover the Truth
Writing is about telling the truth and the truth starts off the page.
~Julie Bogart, The Writer’s Jungle
When Writer’s Block rears its ugly head, you have to discover why there is a block in the first place.
- Is it exhaustion?
- Does the topic not appeal to your child?
- Do they feel overwhelmed or unprepared to write about the subject?
Children are no different than adults when it comes to struggling to put words to paper. They have doubts and fears when it comes to sharing their thoughts. So, finding out what is behind their writing blocks is important.
Sometimes it as simple as what I was going through – exhaustion. They are simply tired. I don’t necessarily mean they had three sporting events and a dance recital this week kind of tired, though that will certainly do it. I mean that they are mentally exhausted and are having a hard time coming up with words to describe what they want to say.
Mental exhaustion isn’t as obvious as physical exhaustion, but it is just as potent at killing a good thought. Help your child by listening to what they need to say.
- Let them tell you what they are thinking so you can take notes. Then give those notes back to them to spark their writing.
- Take a brain break. Choose a physical activity that doesn’t require much thinking and can burn off some steam.
- Change the atmosphere. Add a nice smelling candle, take your paper and pencil outside, find a cozy spot in the house or use a pretty notebook to change the mood of the moment.
Topic That Isn’t Working
It’s so easy to choose a topic that you think will appeal to your child that falls flat once it’s presented. Often, we choose topics (or our writing prompts worksheet does) that sound like they would be a good fit, but don’t appeal to your child’s interests.
Have you ever tried to write about a topic that you weren’t interested in? It’s difficult, to say the least. I remember all those papers in college. Some I readily attacked with
Some I could barely
It’s the same with our kids. We can’t expect a brilliant treatise on the Battle of the Bulge if they have absolutely no interest in World War II. The most we can hope for is some regurgitated facts they learned during their lessons. Don’t take it personally. We all have different interests and this one just might not appeal to your child.
Step 2: Find Inspiration
Nothing is more deflating that being asked to write about a subject that draws a complete blank.~ Julie Bogart, The Writer’s Jungle
When the words won’t come, it can make your child feel defeated. All those feelings of resistance come from a place of fear. How can they possibly be a good writer, if they can’t come up with a single thing to say?
Fear holds most of us back from doing things we can and want to do. The fear of feeling stupid or unworthy can make your child feel like they are incapable of completing the simplest of tasks. But what if you were able to stop those fears and help your child release their thoughts?
Stop asking them to write about topics that they know nothing about and inspire them to open up about their thoughts. How do you do this? Simple, get to know your kid.
- What are their interests?
- Which subjects do they know a lot about?
- What do they want to talk about?
Once you know what inspires them, get them to start writing by focusing on a small part of the topic. Don’t ask for everything they know on the subject, but narrow the focus. Pick an assignment that they can get into and will coax them into opening up and sharing. From there you can broaden the topic until they feel safe sharing more and more details.
But, Know When to Walk Away
When you see the frustration starting to set in and the words begin to freeze up, take a break. Lay the paper and pencil aside and concentrate on something else.
Writer’s Block hits me in those moments when I need it the least – when an article is due and I have a limited time to get it written. The truth is I’m a procrastinator and it’s my own fault, but it doesn’t change the fact that I am now in a position where I feel backed up against a wall and no words come out. So, as counterintuitive as it sounds, I walk away.
When I began writing this article, I struggled with what to say. Inspiration wouldn’t come. So, I stopped. I walked away. I grabbed that old journal from high school and I began reading some of the essays I had written nearly 30 years ago. Did it inspire me? Well, not exactly. But, it did release my mind and reminded me that I can share my thoughts on paper.
After taking some time away from the topic, I was able to come back with fresh eyes. Sometimes this just takes a few minutes. Sometimes it takes a few days. And, sometimes an article sits partially written for months.
And, that’s ok. It’s not time for me to share my thoughts on that particular subject and I’ll come back to it. Or maybe I won’t. Either way, I can accept it because I know there are other subjects that I can write about.
Let your child step away. It’s possible that he or she will come back to the assignment fresh and with a new inspiration, but keep in mind that it may never be a brilliant paper. They may find no value in writing about that particular subject.
Don’t Let Writer’s Block Define Your Child or You
Writer’s Block happens to everyone. It’s not some mystery illness. It doesn’t only attack young children or women in their 40s. Writer’s Block isn’t an isolated disease your children catch because they haven’t been educated properly.
It is real and it happens everyday in even the best homeschools. Don’t let writer’s block defeat you.
Remember that your child has beautiful thoughts that they sometimes need help expressing. It’s your job as their teacher to help them unlock those thoughts. Some days that comes easy and some days it takes all of your efforts. But, don’t be discouraged. Give them the tools and they can unlock the words.
Brave Writer Blog Hop
Check out these other amazing bloggers and their articles about Writer’s Block:
How to Get the Words Flowing From Your Struggling Writer from Bethany at Bethany Ishee
Brave Writer For Children With Learning Differences by Shawna at Not The Former Things
4 Ways to Encourage Your Teens to Write by Kay at Heart-to-Heart Homeschooling