You’ve heard of writer’s block, right? I’m sure you have. Most, if not all, people who write — and that’s most of us, in some form or another — get stuck. The brain idles. Words that flow in your mind don’t seem to make it out in the written form.
I certainly crash up against writer’s block. Frequently. But, relying on trade tricks or methods of motivation — deadline being one of the most powerful — I manage to transfer my thoughts into words.
Still, writing is difficult for a lot of people. For different reasons, writing is daunting, intimidating, humbling and even threatening.
But if you’ve ever wanted to write, whether it be a story, a book, poems, and you are unsure how to, may I suggest you talk to Marge Pellegrino.
Pellegrino, author and teacher, is this summer’s Pima County Public Library’s Writer-in-Residence. Pellegrino will meet with you at Woods Memorial Library, 3455 N. First Ave., on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon and Nanini Library, 7300 N. Shannon Road, on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“Writing is so accessible,” Pellegrino said. The basic tools are pen and paper or, if you are more comfortable, a computer. Anyone and everyone can write, said Pellegrino, who works with refugee children who are learning English through the Owl & Panther Project.
Pellegrino is the library’s fourth writer-in-residence in a program, now in its second year, in part funded by the Arizona State Library of the Secretary of State’s Office and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The program runs through Aug. 31 and is free.
Whether you don’t consider yourself a writer or you have a manuscript ready to send to the publishing world, Pellegrino has tips, ideas, suggestions or words of encouragement.
“Everybody comes in needing something different,” said Pellegrino, author of “My Grandma’s the Mayor” and “Too Nice,” both children’s books, and the award-winning novel “Journey of Dreams.” She has also published nonfiction and poetry.
Pellegrino counsels writers not to be judgmental about their writing. Don’t worry what others will think or even what the writer thinks about their work.
“It’s about the process. It’s not about the product,” she said.
But even the process can be a barrier.
In some writing workshops that she has coordinated, Pellegrino has a teaching tool that helps overcome that gnawing, growling self-doubt: she has the students write on paper, then tear it up without reading what they wrote.
It’s not as crazy as you might think. That small act can go a long way.
“It’s liberating,” Pellegrino said.
By avoiding what was written, it relieves the pressure, the fear of self-criticism which can be powerful and, at times, destructive for a writer. It encourages the writer, next time, to focus on writing and not the doubts.
Pellegrino began writing when a brother died, leaving two young daughters. As a way to cope with her loss, she took a workshop in journal writing. In her words, she dealt with her pain and grief, in ways she couldn’t do through talking.
“On the page I would lay it all out. I didn’t have to hold it,” she said.
Through this practice she found her voice, she found clarity, she found purpose.
Writing has that power, regardless of the level of writing. We’re not talking Toni Morrison or Gabriel Garcia Marquez here. Everyone is a writer. Everyone has words, a story to tell about their childhood, a crazy uncle, a first kiss or the last kiss, a trip, a dream, a story about monsters, about diving into the sea or soaring through space, or a secret.
And everyone has inner questions about themselves and the world around them, which writing can help answer, Pellegrino said.
“You can find your own wisdom,” she said. “Writing helps you discover your own answers.”
So go find your answers. Talk to Marge. Then let your words talk to you because they will and when you hear them, you’ll write more. Just for yourself. You and your words.