Is your child struggling with writer’s block? What does writer’s block even mean? If the ideas aren’t flowing, here are some fun tips to kickstart the creativity.
I think we can all recall the fear and terror that would overtake us at the sight of a blank page when we knew writing was expected. Whether a research paper, book report or an essay response on an exam, anxiety grew each moment we had no idea what to write. It seemed that the harder we tried to think, the more desperate the situation became.
Writer’s block is the term often used to describe this paralysis of thought and action. But is this writer’s block? Does writer’s block even exist?
No matter what we call it, the fact is our struggling writers can have many reasons for having difficulty composing their thoughts. It’s our job as their writing coach (and mom) to help them develop the tools to conquer this struggle.
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What is writer’s block?
Is writer’s block even a “thing”? Well, I think it is and it isn’t. Yes, we all have paralysis that will overcome us sometimes when facing a blank page or screen and our children experience this same sensation at times. However, the cause of this paralysis can be many things, such as:
- Lack of ideas
- Lack of experience
- Past experiences with writing
I think fear is often the most probable cause of writer’s block, especially for a young writer. Fear they will make grammatical and spelling mistakes, fear of the dreaded red pen, and fear that no one will value what they have to say, and unfortunately these are all valid fears.
This is why freewriting, without any outside expectations, is so beneficial. It gives a writer the space to create without the fear of judgment. Don’t read and correct their freewriting that would defeat the entire purpose, but instead, allow them to write without fear.
Lack of Ideas
Another big cause of the blank page is a lack of ideas or lack of interest in the subject matter.
Being handed a blank sheet of paper and a pencil and being told to write something is as traumatic as being told it’s art time, so draw something.
Every possible idea immediately evaporates. To write, you need an idea to write about, and if you have no ideas, the mountain you need to scale just doubled in size.
Let’s be honest, at times writer’s block is simply procrastination. Some of us procrastinate more than others, but even adults procrastinate when there is a legitimate reason to get something done.
Imagine how a child feels when told to write something for no other reason than to make someone else happy and to have their work judged. These reasons aren’t particularly motivating. And the idea that they will need this someday in the far off, unimaginable future, holds little power.
Instead, it may be necessary to find a legitimate reason to write. Your procrastinating child may be motivated by an Amazon review or a penpal more than they ever will be by a mom grade.
Who wants to write about a subject that they find utterly boring? Not many of us.
Everyone has different interests and sometimes our writer’s block is only because we have no interest in the subject matter. The younger you are, the more this affects your abilities.
I’m at the age where I feel I could write about anything I needed to, but if you had told me when I was ten years old to write about penguins, that would have been difficult. However, I’m sure many 10-year-olds would love to write about penguins.
Discover their interests and build from there.
Lack of Experience
We often forget that children lack the depth of life experience needed to create interesting writing.
Writer’s block can emerge when they find the topic interesting but have no experience upon which to draw. Sure, they can do research, but that isn’t the same thing as a personal experience.
Past Experiences With Writing
Past experiences are often tied to fear. Children remember the last assignment and all the things they did incorrectly, and it can be paralyzing.
Who wants to do something knowing it will end with being told all the things they did wrong? Especially, if it’s something they didn’t want to write about in the first place!
Banish Writer’s Block
So now that we’ve talked about the source of writer’s block let talk about some of the ways we can get the words flowing from our young writers.
1 | Chill Out
Taking a deep breath is the first thing homeschool parents need to do when it comes to writing (and math). Take a step back and realize your child’s entire future doesn’t rest on this one paragraph about sharks.
Our anxiety around writing can become palpable. We can’t hide it, and our children pick up on it, which can cause paralysis. Perhaps, they don’t want to disappoint us, or maybe they fear our judgments? Maybe, we have a rebel who wants to be contrary?
Whatever the reason, this is an area we can control. Take a break, fix a cup of tea, and read a book, it will be good for everyone.
2 | Brainstorm Ideas
Sometimes, our children need a little help coming up with ideas. Brainstorm together!
You have more life experience and can maybe expand or drill down on an idea they have that will provide them the direction they need to get started. Sometimes we need to help fill that void.
If no one is coming up with ideas, pick a writing prompt that sounds fun and freewrite. Sometimes the best solution to writer’s block is to start writing.
My oldest daughter recently finished a dual enrollment English 101 course. What they were required to write was very specific, and they were given a resource from which to choose a topic. Even in a college course, they weren’t left to randomly generate ideas on command.Take a step back and realize your child's entire future doesn't rest on this one paragraph about sharks.Click To Tweet
3 | Freewrite
Often, the best thing to do for writer’s block is to write. Write even though it’s terrible. Write even though everything is spelled wrong. Write even though you have nothing to say.
But wait, I have writer’s block!
Maybe, but sometimes pushing through and writing anything will set you on a course to something wonderful.
4 | Play a Game
There are several games which can help start the creative juices flowing.
5 | Experience Life
Experience is one of the best sources of creative inspiration, so maybe it’s time to do something.
Visit a museum or walk around the neighborhood, you never know what you’ll encounter to add to the mental filing cabinet.
Also, sometimes our brains need a reboot that can occur from shifting gears. Whether it’s reading a book, baking some cookies, or a science experiment, your child might need something hands-on to get over the writer’s block hump.
6 | Do It For Them
Gasp! That’s cheating!
No, it isn’t, hear me out. Sometimes combining the creative work of original composition with the physical act of writing can be too much. If you have a child with dyslexia or dysgraphia, you know this is true.
What to do?
Write it for them. Be your child’s scribe if needed and separate the two acts.
My dyslexic daughter was delighted when we discovered the speech to text function in Google Docs. She can now compose anytime she desires without laboring over the spelling and mechanics of writing.
7 | Give Them Space
Just like math, writing isn’t an emergency. It’s okay to take a break and pick it up tomorrow.
Set a time to try again and return with a fresh perspective. Life is full of pressures and deadlines; we don’t have to induce them on our children voluntarily.
Writer’s Block Isn’t a Mystery
Writer’s block isn’t caused by some mysterious force outside of our control, and we aren’t beholden to its whims.
Our job as writing coaches to our children is to help them find ways to keep going, even when writing gets tough.
We have this vision of successful writers that is comparable to that of famous artists. They’re gifted, talented, and every other positive thing that we aren’t.
But that’s only partially true. Maybe some were uniquely gifted, but often writers became successful because of hard work. They wrote page after page of garbage before they were satisfied.
Not every word that is written or line that is drawn will be a masterpiece, but they might be the first step toward greatness.
Writing begets more writing, so help your child banish writer’s block and set the words free.
Other posts about writing in the relaxed homeschool:
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