So, you know someone who is having some trouble producing the written word. What do you say to them?
It’s a risky business. There’s an elephant in the room, and it’s packed with emotion. If you ignore or completely avoid the topic of writing, they might conclude that you’ve abandoned them and don’t care.
If you decide to speak to the blocked writer and say the wrong thing (as Evan does to Dan in the video), you might have to either absorb a blast of hostility, listen to an angry rant about writing, or watch your friend, relative or lover experience deep shame, frustration, pain or hopelessness. It’s not easy, and might be uncomfortable. There is no easy answer.
You may have your own set of feelings about the writer’s lack of productivity, especially if you are a significant other waiting for a dissertation to get done and a career to get started so you can stop eating Top Ramen for dinner. If you are also a writer, and if writing is going well for you, this will be hard for the other person. If you are also blocked, the topic of writing may feel even more threatening and problematic to discuss.
It’s not easy to talk with someone who feels guilty, preoccupied, anxious, depressed, or unhappy, and blocked writers can be all of these. Here are some thoughts to consider:
~Ask permission to discuss the issue of writing, and choose a good time and setting for the conversation.
~If either one of you is really upset, postpone the discussion.
~Be compassionate. Avoid name-calling (“You’re just lazy!”) and hurtful criticism (What made you think you could be a writer!”) The blocked writer has usually already thought these things, or worse, internally.
~If your goal is to assist, ask for input about what you can do or say that is most helpful to the writer. Your ideas about how to be helpful may not be what is desired, so don’t take input on this topic personally.
~If you are being impacted by the writing issues, state your feelings, needs and desires in a way that is clear but does not assess blame.
~Keep a sense of perspective and humor. Know that there is only so much you can do, and that at the end of the day the blocked writer will resolve the issue (or not) in their own way.