The dialogue with a stranger on a plane often goes something like this:
Stranger: “What do you do for a living?”
Me: “I’m a teacher.”
Stranger: “What do you teach?”
Me: “I teach writing.”
The response from the stranger is almost predictable. Odd looks. Nervous laughter. Usually followed by an admission that he doesn’t like to write, or that she tried to write in school once but it didn’t work out, or that he has to write as part of his job — but hates it.
Even professional writers will confess their loss of passion for their craft.
So do we hate writing? Or does writing hate us?
This feeling has many different names: writing anxiety, writing apprehension, writers’ block, paralyzing procrastination, aversive conditioning. The best description of the problem comes from the international reading scholar Frank Smith, who once described literacy as “a club.” Usually, something bad happens in school that persuades people that they are not fit to become members of the “writing club.”
This is a very sad state of affairs. And more important: it doesn’t have to be this way. If writing is hard or frustrating to you. If you once loved writing but have now “lost that lovin’ feeling,” as the Righteous Brothers once sang, there is something you can do about it.