My mom is a natural encourager. With her love of working with writers, it was just a matter of time when she was invited to speak at The Hilton Head Annual Summer Writer’s Conference.
For years, she worked at the information booth but last year, she was given her own booth because her line grew too long with questions. She was even provided with an “Ask It basket” for students to drop off their questions. At the end of the conference, we collected one hundred and seventy-eight questions.
One of the popular questions was “how do I push through my writer’s block?” When Mom was invited to speak at the conference this year, she didn’t have to worry about finding the right topic.
Sixteen hundred attendees signed up for the conference this year, representing ten states. Mom’s session was titled “Breaking through the Block with Debbie Johnson.” She taught the session before at church but never with a group this large.
I loved helping at the conference, especially since I was already out of school for the summer. This year, my dad and brother attended the conference to help out with any logistics.
Right before her session started, she was given three microphones. Mom clipped the small microphone on her suit jacket and gave the two hand-held mikes to me and my brother to walk around the room for questions from the audience. The next thing we knew, it was show time. Mom walked into a crowded room to a standing ovation.
“Have you ever examined why you’re having writer’s block?” Mom asked the audience.
The crowd was silent as walked up to the front of the room. She looked like a professional.
“Well, we were hoping that you’d tell us!” Someone joked from the back of the room.
The audience laughed.
“Right, but I want you to think about it. Where do you feel the block? Is it when you are in the creative phase or it is something external creating that block?”
“My problem is in the creative phase,” an older woman said.
“Ok. Let’s use that. Do you think your block is from the methods you use to write or is it by developing your plot, narrative, character, or dialogue?”
“Well, I never thought about it that way,” a young girl said from the second row.
“You thought a writer’s block was just a general thing,” mom said.
The girl nodded.
“Debbie, I’m curious about the writing methods you just mentioned. Would you expand on that?” A young guy asked from the back.
“That’s a great question. I will answer that question by asking you five questions,” she said. “Come up to the front with your pad and pen,” she said.
The young man ran up to the front of the room.
“What is your name?” She asked.
“Okay, Frank. Here are my five questions. One, what were you writing when you got blocked? Two, do you write in the morning or the evening? Three, where do you get your bursts of inspiration? Four, what writing instruments do you currently use? Five, do you like your current surroundings while you are writing?”
Mom repeated the five questions as the audience took notes.
A few minutes later, the young man handed her his writing pad to show that he was finished.
“These are Frank’s responses. He was writing a description of the protagonist when he got blocked. He writes in the evenings after dinner but gets inspired during his morning jog. He uses a desktop computer and doesn’t like his surroundings because it is too boring,” Mom read.
“Oh, I can see his problem!” A girl said from the front row.
“I don’t!” A man said from the back.
“Wait a minute. I’m totally lost,” Another lady said.
“Feel free to enlighten the audience,” Mom said to the girl on the front row. I handed her my microphone.
“He said that he gets inspired while running in the morning but uses his computer at night after dinner, when he is obviously bored and probably the least creative. If he spent time in the mornings writing in a simple journal after his morning run, he may tap into his creative juices a lot faster,” she explained.
“Folks, this is how you examine your writer’s block,” Mom said.
“Oh, okay. I got it now!” A man said from the back.
“That is so simple, but it makes sense,” a woman said from the front of the room.
The audience clapped enthusiastically.
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