When I was a sophomore in high school, I read “The Pact” for the first time. It had come out a few years before that, and was hot in the streets. I’m not sure if “loved” is the word for this book – if you know the story, then you know it’s kind of intense and not a happy tale. But it’s the kind of book that will stick with you when you’re done reading it, you’re still thinking about the characters as you’re making dinner hours or days later. Most of Jodi Picoult’s books are like that – I read a bunch of them after “The Pact.”
Anyway, I digress. At that time, I’d already had the dream of becoming a published author like Jodi for years. So I decided to reach out to her for some advice. I wrote her an email and told her how much I loved her books, and asked her what to do about writer’s block.
(Sidebar: if you’re unfamiliar with writer’s block, it’s when you sit down to write something and can’t for the life of you come up with ANYTHING. Everyone who has ever wanted to write has probably dealt with this at some point.)
Well God bless Jodi, she wrote back! “Alexandra,” she said to me, “I do not have time for writer’s block.” She went on to tell me about how she was balancing her career with three kids and a husband, and getting time to write at all was a privilege, so every second was valuable. “I just sit my butt down in my chair and write. It can be my grocery list,” she said. This advice has always stuck with me. When I grew up and also had to balance writing with other responsibilities (i.e. keeping myself alive) I really understood.
And that did pretty much cure my writer’s block. I found that as long as I just show up and write literally anything – grocery list is a very good example! – whether it is actually creative or not, even if it’s the biggest piece of shit that’s ever been written, eventually in that session if I keep grinding, I find my way to at least one sentence that’s actually useable. That might not seem like much, but if you keep doing it consistently then it adds up!
Again, anytime I’m throwing in any “advice,” I don’t want you to think I’m some kind of expert on writing or life – that is certainly not the case! But this advice comes from someone way way way WAY more accomplished and talented than I am, and it was helpful to me so perhaps it will be for you as well.
And Jodi, if you ever see this: thank you for taking the time to answer a young kid – your kindness has not been forgotten and you greatly impacted me as a writer. You’re the best!