When the tears come, the writing is done
Can you type while crying? Cook dinner? Make love? Not well.
Tears are an indication that something is wrong. Really wrong. They signal pain: emotional or physical. In writing, emotional pain may be writer’s block or fear of making a mistake. Physical pain may be that the hand hurts from squeezing the pencil too tightly, or eye strain, or physical exhaustion from a poor night’s sleep.
Crying is not a sign of laziness or lack of character. Crying is the last release, the final “giving up” and admission of failure.
Crying signals: I need comfort.
When the tears come, the writing’s done.
Take a break. Acknowledge your child’s feelings:
“I see that you’re unhappy. Let’s talk about this project later.”
Offer a hug.
Later, when your child has regained equilibrium, come back to find out what went wrong.
Are you afraid of making a mistake?
Is it too hard to grip the pencil for ten minutes straight?
Are you having a hard time spelling?
Do you wish you could play outside in the sunshine rather than sit at a table?
Does it feel like you have nothing to say?
Are you sleepy? Hungry?
Do you feel pressured by me?
Be an investigator and a comforter. A cup of tea and eye contact will go a long way toward soothing the hurting writer. Remember, writer’s block is the usual reason for writing paralysis (not strong wills).
Writer’s block means the child doesn’t have access to the words inside. The words are hidden behind anxiety, fear of failure, or a vague sense of the topic (not enough depth in the subject area to be able to write about it meaningfully).
Writer’s block is experienced by everyone (pros, professors, and prodigies) and at its most acute, produces tears.
Give oodles of empathy and hugs. Offer a snack (with protein in it). Talk about how to make writing less painful. Take some time to remind yourself of the goal – a free, brave writer who is at ease when writing, not gripped with anxiety and fear.
Take a look at The Writer’s Jungle, if you need strategies for unblocking your chronically blocked writers.
Image by Philip Dean