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A young songwriter asks about writer’s block: Do you get it? How do you get past that?

Poem fragment, Portland, OR. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

Poem fragment, Japanese Memorial, Portland, OR. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

I don’t get writer’s block.

(Get past it? Go to the beach … take a long walk in the woods … soak up life … then just write.)

I sized up his lanky frame, calculating his age — 20s — and tried to remember what it was like to write at that stage in life.

I would start tentatively and stop too soon, then rewrite, over and over again. Or fidget/clean house/find-anything-else-on-earth-to-do-but-write. Or, like my songwriter friend, I would just stare at my fingers and wonder why nothing was seeping from my brain to the blank page.

As a journalist, it’s easier. There are deadlines and fire-breathing editors (or so some seemed then) as prompts.

It took years to learn I was a perfectionist, and to understand that writer’s block was just fear. I was seeking the “perfect” word/phrase every time — it takes awhile before you can admit that isn’t going to happen.

Writer’s block is just fear. Fear can be conquered.

When I was a young writer, it seemed I could not write anything until I was satisfied that the lede was absolutely right. (Fire-breathing editors helped me get over that.)

That first sentence is the most important part of your story or song or other creation. It’s what grabs readers or listeners first, so has to be provocative.

So write it.

Not to sound like a lame Nike ad, but really, just write it.

Move past the fear and find your voice.

Whatever is in your head the minute you want to create, use it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It might not survive the final edit anyway — it’s just an opening.

Write it, and you will open your brain to the message you want to convey, whether it’s words for a song or fragments for a poem or a long essay.

Just write and write and write, then go back and revise or leave it, and return when your brain has been occupied with something else. You’ll see your work with new eyes and the words are likely to change before you put fingers to keys.

(I’m not joking about the beach. Any time away from self-imposed pressure to write will help you find a way to writing your passion.)

There’s no mystery here. You can buy/download many books about writing (I recommend Anne Lamott’s bird by bird), but they won’t help you find your voice.

If I was with my songwriter friend now, and he asked the same question, I wouldn’t answer with a word. I would tap his heart, and tell him the words are there.

I am certain of it.

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