How to cope with writer’s block: Begin with ‘Dear Mother’

New Yorker essayist John McPhee shares his advice for dealing with writing paralysis.

Ragan Insider Premium Content
Ragan Insider Content

You try one sentence, then delete it. You try again; still nothing. Panic rises, and you begin imagining that your colleagues have found you out.

“How did she get this job? She’s not a writer!”

There’s a name for this condition, this feeling of helplessness when words won’t come.

Writer’s block.

In the April issue of The New Yorker, the 82-year-old essayist and Pulitzer Prize winner John McPhee shares the advice he’s given to former students and to his daughter, the novelist Jenny McPhee.

Say you’re writing about a grizzly bear and the words won’t come, writes McPhee.

Type this salutation across the top of the page: “Dear Mother…”

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.