Once asked about the most frightening thing he had ever encountered, novelist Ernest Hemingway replied, “A blank sheet of paper.”
Here are some great tips to help your child when writers block hits
Start Small: When you bake a cake, it doesn’t pop out of the oven ready to serve. You have to begin with a plain cake and build from there, adding icing and decorating with colourful sprinkles.
It’s just as unrealistic for your child to expect a brilliant composition to appear on paper the minute the words start forming. As with the cake, it helps to start with a few plain sentences that can be embellish later.
I am on a football team.
Yesterday we played our best game.
I scored two goals.
David scored the winning goal.
It was a close game.
Our coach took us out for pizza.
Later, your child can ask who, what, when, where, and why questions to help add descriptive details and sentence variety:
I am on the Red Rockets football team with my friend David. Yesterday we played our best game of the season against the Mud Ducks. Just before half time, I scored two goals to tie the score. During the last minute of the match, David knocked the ball off the posts and into the net, scoring the winning goal for our team. What a close game! Afterwards, Coach Dan took the whole team out for Pizza to celebrate our victory.
Write Now, Revise Later: A rough draft is a place to test out ideas and play with words. Getting those unpolished ideas onto paper is an important part of the process.
If your child realises this rough copy gives them permission to be imperfect, they will be more willing to allow themself the freedom to make some mistakes. Urge your child not to do any editing at all during the rough-draft stage.
The first draft will eventually need some tweaking; there’s always room for improvement. (Even revered authors such as Tolkien, Steinbeck, and Rowling have faced the task of revising their work!) This is the time to encourage your kids to rework their copy so it shines for them.
- Younger children shouldn’t labour over a revision. It’s enough to add a few details, substitute stronger words, and polish up spelling and punctuation.
- Teens, however, should expect to rewrite a draft several times before it passes muster, beefing up arguments, supporting with additional facts, embellishing with description, and improving both word choice and mechanics.
Write Out of Order: If the “perfect” introduction eludes your child, let them start writing a different section. They can always come back and add an introductory paragraph.
Use a Writing Prompt: When ideas languish in the corner of your child’s mind, a writing prompt could be the very thing that blows him out of the writing doldrums. A text prompt is a word, phrase, or short paragraph that provides a springboard to writing about a specific topic.
As an alternative, an interesting or unusual photo—with or without accompanying text—might be all the inspiration your child needs to break out of the writing slump.
The most important thing to remember is to have fun with writing. Writing doesn’t need to be ‘perfect’ – your child’s idea of ‘perfect’ is more than fine.