How to cope with writer’s block: Begin with ‘Dear Mother’
New Yorker essayist John McPhee shares his advice for dealing with writing paralysis.
You try one sentence, then delete it. You try again; still nothing. Panic rises, and you begin imagining that your colleagues have found you out.
“How did she get this job? She’s not a writer!”
There’s a name for this condition, this feeling of helplessness when words won’t come.
In the April issue of The New Yorker, the 82-year-old essayist and Pulitzer Prize winner John McPhee shares the advice he’s given to former students and to his daughter, the novelist Jenny McPhee.
Say you’re writing about a grizzly bear and the words won’t come, writes McPhee.
Type this salutation across the top of the page: “Dear Mother…”
This is terrific advice, and it thrills me that it comes from one of our greatest living writers.
I have often taught the same technique in my Advanced Writing and Editing workshops with longtime colleague Jim Ylisela.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.Sign up today
Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.