Writer’s Block (Or How I Got Stuck but Am Finding My Way Back)

Recently I hit the wall. I got stuck. I contracted a case of writer’s block.

All of that is an excuse for the simple fact that I lost confidence. I wanted to make my manuscript better, and I didn’t know how. So, instead of buckling down and working harder, I turned my back on the manuscript and found other more important things to do – like work on my taxes and groom the dog. Each time I walked by my manuscript, sitting in its three ring binder on my coffee table, I would look the other way. I put magazines on top of it – out of sight, out of mind.

I shouldn’t have blamed the manuscript. It didn’t do anything wrong. Like a teenager in a first relationship I was unsure of myself. “It’s not you, it’s me. I don’t know how to make a commitment. I ‘m not sure how to do this.”

Meanwhile, I was waiting for something else……I had been named a finalist for an award. It is an award for the book that I am working on that I can’t seem to get right. How could I be considered for an award for something that I’m struggling with? It didn’t make sense. So I tried to ignore the fact that I was waiting to find out about the award, and I groomed the dog some more.

I spent last Tuesday checking my email. I didn’t look at it three or four times over the course of the day. I obnoxiously and obsessively checked it three or four times every hour. Last Tuesday was when the committee was to announce the award winners. I didn’t hear from the committee. No email. No phone call. Nothing. I finally went to bed resigned to the fact I couldn’t have won. And why should I win? I had buried my manuscript under a pile of magazines and couldn’t even look at it.

The following day I received an email saying the committee needed more time and would be in touch Monday. Damn, I thought. I had already resigned myself to NOT winning and now I would have to consider the fact I was still in the running. Don’t get your hopes up, I told myself.

Monday came along and I tried to stay away from the computer. I didn’t want to have a repeat of last Tuesday – opening my in-box every few minutes. I enjoyed the warm weather. (Spring had finally returned to Vermont). I swept our deck and washed the car and did laundry and generally did everything I could think of to stay busy. Again, the end of the day arrived and I had heard nothing. Again, I told myself not to worry about it. Who am I to get an educator award anyway?  I’m not a teacher. I haven’t found a publisher or a literary agent for that matter.

Then, today, while I sat waiting for my daughter in the carpool line, I checked my email, and this is what I read:

Congratulations! Your outstanding proposal has been selected to be the recipient of the 2015 Joseph Zola Memorial Holocaust Educator Award…

Wow! I got it! Somebody sees the value of what I have been working on. Somebody understands the value of this story as a tool to teach students about The Holocaust. Somebody has faith in my attempt to put all these words and sentences and paragraphs together in a coherent whole that tells about humanity and the need to watch out for your neighbor and help strangers and do the right thing even when it is scary and hard.

I’m taking the rest of today off. Tomorrow I’ll get back to revising and looking for a literary agent.

10 thoughts on “Writer’s Block (Or How I Got Stuck but Am Finding My Way Back)

  1. Myriam says:

    Gefeliciteerd Heidi !
    Having to fulfill such expectations should be quite a push to overcome the danger of grooming your dog forever.

  2. Myriam says:

    Gefeliciteerd Heidi !
    I don’t know how it feels for you, butr having to fulfill such expaectations should be quite a push to overcome the danger of grooming your dog forever.

  3. Arnoud-Jan Bijsterveld says:

    Hi Heidi, what wonderful news! Congratulations! I hope this also means you will find a publisher now. I know how you feel: at the moment I am quite unsure about the relevance of all I wrote so far and I keep postponing contacting some publishers I selected… Besides, teaching keeps me from working in the final chapters which still need to be written.
    Enjoy the award and hope to hear from you soon.
    This week, two new memorials were installed at Westerbork: two restored wagons of the type used to deport people from Westerbork and an installation reading out all the names of those deported, including those of the people who survived. This means you mother’s, uncle’s and grandparents’ names are now included in a memorial. I thought you should know!
    All the best, enjoy Spring!
    Arnoud-Jan

  4. Jackie says:

    Heidi — congratulations!! What an honor! Thank you also for all the help you gave me regarding this part of my family.

  5. drneynaber says:

    Congratulations! Now that the bulk of your manuscript is completed, I’m wondering whether you have had a chance to reflect on how writing about Popje’s life has impacted your faith and your outlook on life.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  6. Kay says:

    Well said. You show talent as a writer! 😉 Try a book on patience next. All good things come to those who wait or something like that. Now I’ll see if that works on the Red Sox. KaySent from my iPad

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