Finding a writing practice can be a challenge for all sorts of reasons. Many of us have full-time jobs, families, other responsibilities that have nothing to do with writing. Sometimes, if our full-time jobs involve writing, we come home “written out” and find it hard to write some more. Some of us are intimidated by a blank page. Some of us think we can only write if we have long blocks of time. Some of us can only write in a certain place. Some of us think that we’ll get to it tomorrow. Some of us suffer from writers’ block. The list of barriers goes on.
Once, I had the privilege of meeting Elmore Leonard. He was a great writer (unfortunately, he died in 2013) and also a complete sweeper-aside of anything that sounded like “b.s.” to him. Which included the list of barriers in paragraph one. When he was the keynote speaker at a writers conference sponsored by the Detroit Women Writers (as it was then known) and held at Oakland University in Rochester Michigan, he gave a speech that was serviceable, but not memorable to me.
What was memorable was what happened in the Q&A after the speech. A young man, possibly a student at the university, asked Mr. Leonard: “What do you do about writers’ block?” At that point, Mr. Leonard trembled with rage. He leaned over the podium towards the student, who shrank back in his seat. “Writers’ block?” shouted Mr. Leonard. “Writers’ block?” He paused. “You either want to write or you don’t.”
This has stuck with me over the years and served me well. While I was certainly glad that I was not the target of Mr. Leonard’s rage, I felt it and I suspect so did every person in the room. Whether it’s about writers’ block or any other issue, his point is absolute. If we want to write, that’s what we should do—write. Let’s do it!