Dear Annie: I am a published author and have been struggling to write my next book. I’ve written a handful of adult-oriented fictional books.
My most recent published book came out almost five years ago. I’ve tried several times to start the next book, but I haven’t been able to get any thoughts together or gather any momentum in the writing process.
I never previously experienced any writer’s block, so this five-year period is challenging. My frustration has also compounded during this period, and I’ve walked away several times for extended periods of time. Any advice from one writer to another?
— Writer’s Blocked
Dear Writer’s Blocked: Writing about your own block is a great way to get the creative juices flowing again. Start every day by writing a stream of consciousness. Don’t focus on specific time requirements or topics. Just write creatively. Don’t go back and read your writings immediately. Let what you’ve written age a bit, and start the next day anew.
Speak with your spouse, a close friend or your therapist about the meaning behind these writings. Inspiration and meaning will find you as you let go of the search for the perfect topic and uncover what’s already hiding inside you.
Dear Annie: My dad is full of interesting stories. And he’s getting older; he’ll be 70 soon. Though he’s in great health, I know that my time is running out with him. And I want to preserve his stories so that they don’t die with him. Do you have any advice on how to go about this?
— Mulling Over Memoir
Dear Mulling Over Memoir: It is terrific that you’re thinking of this. What a gift it would be to your father, yourself and future generations of your family to preserve these stories. On top of that, the process of gathering this information will bring you and your dad closer than ever before.
Try to set aside one afternoon a month to conduct “life interviews” with your dad, accompanying him on a stroll down memory lane. Record the conversations using your smartphone or a recorder.
If you’re not sure where to start, the website https:/legacyproject.org has a helpful list of questions.
Dear Annie: As a therapist specializing in eating disorders, I applaud your telling “Supportive Sibling” to talk with her sister who has an eating disorder before holiday dinners and to devise a safe word to use in conversations if the sister becomes uncomfortable.
I would add that “Supportive Sibling” should ask her sister what would help her rather than guess and should urge her to find a therapist to help her overcome her problems. Most people with eating disorders cannot and do not resolve them without therapeutic help, as this is a biopsychosocial problem.
Additionally, “Supportive Sibling” should advise everyone in the family that no one should be telling any adult how or what to eat or what to weigh. Though often well-intended, these remarks are counterproductive and must be banned during the holidays and year-round.
— Karen, LCSW
Dear Karen: I’m printing your letter for the benefit of “Supportive Sibling,” as well as the friends and family of any of the 30 million people in the United States who have eating disorders. Thank you for sharing your expertise.
Annie Lane, a graduate of New York Law School and New York University, writes this column for Creators Syndicate. Email questions to email@example.com.