Helping Your Child Overcome Writer's Block
"I have nothing to write about!" At the beginning of the year, that was often the war-cry of my students. My first-grade son often approaches writing with trepidation, uncertain of what to write, and worried his ideas are not good enough.
Children, like adults, experience writer's block for a variety of reasons. Some students may be afraid to fail. Others may not be able to think of topics of interest. Here are a few ideas to help your child break through the most common causes of writer's block.
For many students, early writing experiences center around handwriting, letter formation, and conventions. Since perfect penmanship, spacing, capitalization, and punctuation do not come easily or naturally to many students, writing is often associated with the fear of breaking a "rule" or making a mistake.
When your child is writing at home, be slow to correct and quick to encourage ideas. Ideas and creativity must be primary. Handwriting and a mastery of conventions will come with continued practice. Allow your child to draft his/her ideas without correction. If the writing is for a school assignment, work to correct mistakes after the rough draft is complete. When you must correct, do so in a loving way. Replace "C'mon. You know you're supposed to use periods!" with, "I love this sentence. What do you think you might need at the end of it?"
The next time your child declares he has nothing to write about, check to see if the issue is a fear issue, or an idea issue.
Write What You Know
It would be crazy for me to sit down and try to write an article on space travel or the ecosystems that exist in Antarctica, because my knowledge on those topics is extremely limited. I would struggle. I could however, write an article on easy weeknight meals or a story about a frazzled mom. As a teacher, I would constantly remind my students that good writers "write what they know." When your child is stuck, and can't come up with an idea, start with what he knows.
The personal narrative is often the easiest and best place for a student with writer's block to begin. Here are a few questions that may help spark an idea for your child:
● What did you do over the weekend?
● What was the best thing that happened this week?
● What do you love/care about?
● Tell me about your favorite game/character/TV show/movie?
● What are you really good at?
I could almost see a light switch flip on for my son when he realized he could simply write about what he knows. Whether he needs to write a personal narrative or a fiction piece, using themes or elements he knows well as the basis makes developing his writing that much easier. When we write what we are passionate about, our ideas flow.
No Wrong Answers
There was a painter on public television who would say that there are no mistakes in art -- only happy accidents. Our children need to know that their ideas are okay. With the exception of hurtful/hateful ideas, let your children know that they are free to use their imagination in a creative writing piece. Do they want to write about a purple pig who loves licorice? Great. Cowboys on Mars? Sure! A child's imagination is a treasure trove of ideas -- and should be accessed as much as possible. Imagine if Dr. Seuss had been told he couldn't write about pretend creatures -- what a loss that would have been! Unleash your children's creativity and encourage them to write -- in whatever voice, style, or genre is most comfortable for them.