Writing Advice From a 6th Grader

We’ve all had it. Writer’s block. The Inner Critic. This 6th grader has it figured out. I think you’ll agree that this astute and insightful young lady has a dynamic career ahead of her. And now, in her words…

Writer’s block. An evil disease that is very contagious. My teacher tries to help. Mr. Evers. He gives me advice like saying a line, “The bird smashed its head against my window with a loud smack”. That was the line of the day. I get one every day. It’s like a prescribed medicine that you have to take every day if you get a tick bite; that wicked somewhat cherry-flavored goo.

So he wanted a story. I’ll give it to him. It seems like every one has an inspiration. Why? I’m not a boring person (or so I think). What’s wrong? I have so many ideas throughout the day, but it’s like they just run away when I need them the most!

Don’t get me wrong. I have days when I’m at my highest. I manage to get some ideas out but when it’s time to share our writing it’s like everyone is trying to mop the floor with me.

It’s not all me that’s contributing to my writer’s block. It’s also my Inner Critic always telling me, “That’s not good” or “Too boring”. And that’s not all. He turns down all my good ideas like they’re applying for a job with old clothes and five arrest warrants. Whenever I’m writing, my hand trembles because I just know he’s up there waiting for the perfect moment to take a stab at whatever is printed on the paper. He has no filter and no sympathy. His only goal in life is to criticize my writing and tell me how bad it is.

There is no cure to writer’s block. You just wait it out until someone else gets it by touching your pencil, or reading a paper that has been written by someone with writer’s block. So now you know this was one big trap. Have fun!

There you have it. Next time you’re staring at the page or screen, banging your head on the wall, chewing your pencil to shreds, or listening to that nasty Inner Critic…wait it out. It’s going to pass sooner than you think. In the meantime, you can try writing about it like Ellie did and surprise yourself with what comes out.

Ellie’s writing was not always this insightful and peppered with figurative language. She has struggled mightily in school. I know. I’ve been her reading teacher for five years. At the beginning of 4th grade she was still reading at an early 2nd grade level and struggled to write a legible sentence. She is a beautiful girl, inside and out, with a palpable zest for life. She’s an outdoor girl that spends most of her free time climbing trees, making forts with her best friend, and exploring.

Mid- 5th grade something started to click. She had a new teacher – a self published author. A teacher that read real literature aloud to the class every day and taught the children to savor the words. One that required every student to read at least 20 novels during the school year. A teacher that guided her class through writing their first novels. Yes, you read that right. Every 5th and 6th grade student wrote a full length novel last year. (This was not the first time the teacher had done this with her class either).

With a love for reading and writing lovingly bestowed on the students, Ellie had suddenly (though there was nothing sudden about it) blossomed into a reader, working her way through the first of the Harry Potter books (with me cheering her wildly on). Between that book and the many she heard read aloud in class, Ellie’s understanding of story structure and the beauty and power of words grew exponentially. Oh, she started and stopped her novel more times than I can count, and chewed up the whole first semester on ideas that never came to fruition. But that was all just practice, I like to tell her. Because the real story – the novel- did come out. And when it did, Ellie couldn’t stop. Her characters were alive and the plot revealed itself to her each day. Honestly, it was something of a miracle to witness.

Now, even on those rough days, she calls herself a writer, and I’m behind her 100%.

So what’s the take away?

-Share beautiful stories.

-Believe in the power of words.

-Believe in yourself and be patient. The words will come.

-And if all else fails, find an inspiring 6th grade to set you straight!