I’ll confess: writing does not come easy to me. I know I’m good at it, but it is still difficult. I was really encouraged by a recent article I read in The New Yorker. A writer named John McPhee wrote about the idea of writer’s block. I know this sensation all to well. It is simply paralyzing. Often I just can’t seem to put words to paper.
Take, for instance, this example from work. I’m a copywriter, which means I write the headlines for ads you try to ignore. Well, the thing about headlines is that headlines are (or should be) really short. We’re talking about 7 words tops. Seven little words to get the cash register to go “Cha-ching!” Now the thing about writing 7 words is, if you’re blocked, you feel like the client has asked for War and Peace, and they’d like it by end of day, “if possible (read: if you like your job).”
Good Lord, I’d rather dredge the Panama Canal with one of those little dessert spoons they have in Downton Abbey.
But let me tell you why this article encouraged me. Consider the writer’s sage advice:
“If you lack confidence in setting one word after another and sense that you are stuck in a place from which you will never be set free, if you feel sure that you will never make it and were not cut out to do this, if your prose seems stillborn and you completely lack confidence, you must be a writer.”
This article is a godsend. No joke. I’m young, I know. I’m inexperienced. “Headlines!” you say, “Those are nothing.” Well, you’re right. And on a good day, you’re right. But I’m at that sorry point where most days seem like bad ones. If this were fishing, I just haven’t seemed to have attained the touch. The water may be stocked, but I swear these fish can smell inexperience from a mile off. There’s a reason we have the phrase “words escape me.”
My job is to wrangle them. John McPhee’s article “The Writing Life” in the April 29th edition of The New Yorker gives me hope that I can do it. It can give you hope. At the very least, it’s a fascinating read. Check it out.
[This article originally appeared on a contributor's blog, which you can find here.]