Wednesday, April 1, 2015

IWSG: April 1, 2015 ~ Writer's Block





It's the first Wednesday 
of the month ~ 
the day when members of the
Insecure Writer's Support Group
share their writing struggles
and offer their encouragement
and support to other members.




To visit the IWSG website, click here.

To become a member of the IWSG, click here.

Our wonderful co-hosts who are stepping up to help 
IWSG founder Alex J. Cavanaugh today are:
Suzanne Furness, Tonja Drecker, 
Toi ThomasRachna Chhabria
Donna Holeand Fundy Blue (That's me:  Louise Barbour.)

Visit them and thank them for co-hosting.
I'm sure they would appreciate an encouraging comment!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~



I grew up with parents
who wrote voraciously.

It's no surprise to me
that I must write.

Donald and Sara MacBeath
and Their Four Children,
Roy, Donnie, Barb, and Louise
(No Bertie yet!)
On a Trip, 1958

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved





How about you?
Did you grow up immersed in language?
I suspect many writers did.

Writing is my passion,

but there are those awful times
when I stare at a blank page
and I can't think of a single word.





Currently 
I'm writing a memoir
about my family's
time in the North
among the Oji-Cree
west of James Bay.

wikimedia



My primary resource is a collection 
of letters my father wrote
when he taught in isolation 
over fifty years ago.

Here's one of them:




It's a short letter,
but it showed 
me something
I never suspected
about my father.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved 




On Friday, October 14, 1960 
My father wrote:

Hi There:
Mail day has come and gone, 
only there was no mail.  

The weather was out down south, 
and all the planes were grounded.  
I sure do hope that the plane gets in tomorrow.
  
I guess the weekly edition 
of the Lansdowne Letter 
will be delayed this week.

I am fairly well recovered 
from my various ailments 
and should be back to school Monday.
  
All told, I lost about ten pounds 
during my bout with the flu.

Now I have come to 
that embarrassing position 
dreaded by all writers, 
a nice clean white page 
staring you in the face, 
and nothing to put 
on the cottonpicking thing.  

Guess I’ll just have to let things sit for a while, 
drink a cup of coffee, 
and see if I can get some inspiration.  

Nothing at all happened to me.  
I just spent the whole day reading, sleeping, 
and listening to the dogs howling.

Well, here I am back considerably later, 
but with very little inspiration to show 
for my time away from the typewriter.   

Some days nothing happens 
that is worth writing about, 
and this is one of them.

Brian was over tonight, 
and we played some chess.
  
Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell were over 
to the Father’s tonight for some bridge.  
They wanted me to play a few hands, 
but I was still feeling ragged 
from the flu and declined.  

After they were through playing, 
they dropped over to see our little cottage 
and to see how we were doing.

If my life depended upon it, 
I couldn’t find anything else 
to write about tonight, 
so I will just have to sign off.

Bye now,
Love, Don




It's strange to think of my father
wrestling with a blank page.

He never showed 
that side to me.

My father typing a letter
in his two-room cabin
in the northern bush.

© M. Louise (MacBeath) Barbour/Fundy Blue
All Rights Reserved



I'm delighted to discover
that the apple truly doesn't fall
far from the tree!

When I slam into Writer's Block,
my best recourse is to step away,
do something completely different,
and come back.

As I work with my father's letters,
I'm finding more and more
how much I am my father's daughter.

What do you do when you run into Writer's Block?
I'd love to hear!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~
Notes:
If you would like to read a helpful discussion
about Writer's Block, check out this post
by Charlie Jane Anders:
The 10 Types of Writers' Block 
(and How to Overcome Them).
It has lots of ideas and some great illustrations.

If you would like to hear
about life in the North
a half century ago, check out
my Lansdowne Letter posts.
I publish one every Friday.

64 comments:

  1. Never had writer's block at my sea, 4 years and change and still hasn't showed it's face. I never grew up writing either, just fell into it

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    1. I'm not surprised to hear that you've never run into writer's block. It doesn't hit me very often either. It was a surprise to learn my dad struggled with it. I'm glad that you fell into writing, Pat!

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  2. Lost ten pounds? Whoa.
    Glad you are making a book out of these letters.
    Thanks again for co-hosting today!

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    1. My pleasure, Alex! Your recent remark about taking time off today and later this month because of how important the IWSG is to you really stuck in my mind! Your dedication has created a wonderful and inspiring group for writers! Thank you for that!!! And thanks for visiting on your busy day!

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  3. You're right -- the best thing to do is just go do something completely different. Sometimes for days or weeks, until the old writing urge hits again.

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    1. Hi Debra! Fortunately for me, or perhaps unfortunately, life gives me breaks whether I need them or not! LOL! Our washer croaked the day before we left for Hawaii; and we've finally got a repairman coming today. I'm trying to ignore the mountains of laundry and enjoy my Insecure Writer's Support Group day! Never a dull moment in this life! Have a good one, my friend!

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  4. Thanks for co-hosting!

    My mom was an English tutor in college, and her dad instilled proper grammar in his kids, so it's deep in me. :)

    I tend to wait out writer's block. The necessary fix or addition eventually makes itself known.

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    1. Thanks, Debra! I had the fun job of tutoring MBA students in a grammar study group while I was earning my English degree at Cal State Fullerton. Some of my earliest memories are of my father instilling grammar in me, sometimes patiently, and sometimes with frustration. Maybe I'll do a post on that! Thanks for the memories and the idea!

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  5. Hi there! Thanks for co-hosting!

    Writer's block? Usually, I go outside and take a long walk at the nearby park. Sometimes, I read books. Diverting your attention away from the problem may help. Oftentimes, when you come back to it, your mind is clear and the words flow.

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    1. Hi SC! I have lots of wonderful trails right outside my door. Walking them helps me with lots of things including a writing block. Fortunately writing blocks are rare obstacles for me. The best feeling in the world is when those words flow! Have a good one!

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  6. I do want to read more about your parents' lives in the North. How fascinating to have those letters. It's like you get a chance to know your parents when they were younger. What a great topic for memoir, and family history. Thanks for co-hosting IWSG this month!
    Play off the Page

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    1. Thanks for your encouraging comment, Mary! It is fascinating to see my young parents through my adult eyes. I feel so much compassion and gratitude for all their struggles as they worked to give we five siblings a good education all the way through university. Have a great day!

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  7. Thanks for co-hosting this month. Good luck with your book. I'd love to read it. When I get stalled on a book, I'll watch a movie. That sort of frees my mind.

    IWSG #111

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    1. Thanks, Diane! It's good to see you! Seeing a movie is a great idea. When I was teaching my third graders, I often showed short videos, rare movies, to help kiddos build background knowledge for things we were studying and writing about ~ some of them came from impoverished families and little exposure to language and experiences outside their neighborhood. That often helped them get started ~ funny that I never applied it to myself! LOL Have a happy day!

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  8. What an awesome gift you have, Louise. My family weren't writers, they were singers. I was an old ball. I would love to have something my dad had written. Thanks for co-hosting.

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    1. Thanks, Joylene! I so appreciate what a gift my parents gave me in a rich language background from the time I was born, especially after teaching young children for many years! Unfortunately, neither of my parents was musical. I'd love to be able to sing and play an instrument. It's not looking good for this lifetime, LOL! Have a good one!

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  9. Hi Louise,

    Those were the days where people waited for, and looked forward to, the mailman coming. It's pretty sad that Canada Post is slowly discontinuing home delivery. Love your posts.

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    1. Hi Linda! It is sad to see personal mail slipping away. My family's letters are my most treasured things! I do wish more of my mother's early letters had survived. I love your posts too! Have a lovely day, my Montreal friend!

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  10. What a great letter. I think often, 'nothing to write about' means 'I don't think you'd be interested'. At least, for me it does. I have odd interests (early man, metamaterials) that aren't of interest to most, but consume big chunks of my day. As a result, when my kids ask 'What are you up to these days?', I could easily reply, 'Oh nothing'.

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    1. Hi Jacqui! Thanks for visiting! I have different interests too! How can people not be interested in early man? I did have to google metamaterials though ~ fascinating! "Oh nothing' works as a possible response, but I might reply "feeding my soul" or "chasing my passions" or "hanging out with bell ringers." I once had fun at a museum workshop cutting up raw meat with a flint tool like a paleolithic woman! And I just read a great sci fi novel called "Pillar to the Sky" by William R. Forstchen which centered on building a geostationary space elevator with carbon nanotube technology. It was really though-provoking and had lots of great science! Happy doing "Oh, nothing!"

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  11. Writer's block is awful. Often times I have to push through it by just writing anything, even if it's terrible. If you want to get out of the woods, you have to keep walking!

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    1. Hi Megan! I'm a big believer in putting one foot in front of another, no matter what I'm dealing with in life! I used the strategy you use with my 7-9 year olds when I taught. If the words didn't come, I'd encourage them to draw the story. Fortunately I don't hit writer's block too often. My biggest obstacle is what life throws at me. Thanks for stopping by! Have a good one!

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  12. It might be nice to pieces of your father around to hold and keep his presence alive in you. Wrtier’s block is the worst, but it’s an inevitability. Thanks for the cool resource link on this matter. As for me, I find that writing about something else inspires me to write whatever is it I was stuck on; this works because I always have many projects going at once.

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    1. Great strategy for tackling writer's block, Toinette! That helps me when I'm stuck sometimes. It helps to have a lot of strategies, because one time one thing will work and the next time it won't. It is wonderful to have my father's letters, his writing ~ ditto for my mother. I always feel very close to them when I'm working with their words, even if it underscores how very much I miss them. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a kind comment! Have a good one!

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  13. Hi, when I hit writer's block, I move away from the story I am writing and do something else. More often than not I read my way out of it, by immersing myself in a good book. Don't forget listening to some peppy music to brush away the writing blues.

    Rachna Chhabria
    Co-host IWSG
    Rachna's Scriptorium

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    1. Thanks for the great strategy, Rachna! I'm very sensitive to music, and I use it to help me through all kinds of things! Next time I'm stuck I'll try it! Fortunately that doesn't happen too often! I do love to immerse myself in a good book ~ EVERY single day! Have a good one, and thanks for visiting!

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  14. Thank you for co-hosting this month! Not only do I love the name of your blog, but this was a heart-felt post that went straight to mine. My father loved to write as well, and I credit him for giving me the bug. Blogging often helps me get over writer's block. So does writing to a prompt, just so I get something out and on paper. Thanks for sharing! Lisa, co-host AtoZ2015, @ lisabuiecollard.com

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    1. Hi Lisa! Your comment went straight to my heart! I have tried writing to a prompt, and it does help! Fortunately Writer's Block doesn't hit me too often! Thanks for visiting! It's always fun to see your icon pop up!

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  15. It's nice to have that family connection for your writing. My father died when I was very young, so I never really got the chance to know him, but a few years back I uncovered a collection of short stories he wrote. The paper was yellowed and brittle and the ink was fading, but a lot of it was still legible. I have the papers preserved in cellophane now. No one else in my family likes to write, so discovering those stories finally gave me a clue where I got it from.

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    1. What a treasure to find your father's short stories, PP! I know just what you mean when you describe the yellowed, brittle paper with fading ink. I'm sure they me so much to you! \ I have four siblings, and out of the five of us, four of us love to write! My youngest sister has published two books! I'm so proud of her! Dad had a huge influence on me when it came to language, both with writing and speaking. My mom had as much impact as my father, because she was always reading and writing too. Even when I was tiny, Mom always talked reading and authors with me. So I got a double shot of inspiration! Thanks for visiting today!

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  16. Sadly I can't say I come from a writing family at all. It would be nice to think I had a connection somewhere but maybe I am the start of a chain that will continue with my children and onwards into the future. That's quite a nice thought. Thanks for being part of the co-host team this month.

    Best wishes
    Suzanne (IWSG co-host)

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    1. Hi Suzanne! It's great to hear from you again. I love the thought of your being the first link in a chain that may continue with your children! Who knows, maybe there is some kind of genetic memory cropping up in you from a distant ancestor who wrote! The important thing is that you are doing what you want, family connection of not! Have a good one!

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  17. Thanks for co-hosting this month! Dealing with writer's block is a tricky business. Many writers like to say it doesn't exist but then what is it when the blank page stares back at me and I have nothing to write? Does it really not exist? Am I staring at an imaginary wall? Well, when I'm hit with writer's block I fall into a do-anything-else-but-write mode. And you know what happens? Hours later, I'm writing something. Sometimes a sentence or two, whole scenes and or that whole page.

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    1. Hi Lidy! This is one writer who knows writer's block exists! Fortunately, after teaching writing to 7-9 year olds for many years, I do have a big bag of tricks to draw on. Getting away from it and coming back fresh has always worked best for me. Thanks for sharing and visiting my blog today!

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  18. I find that often when I have writer's block, it's due to an issue with the story or not knowing where to go next. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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    1. Hi Sandra! Not knowing where to go next ~ You nailed a big stumbling block! For me, it's getting that first rough draft down. I flounder around and around until I find the story in my floundering. Have a happy writing month, and thanks for visiting!

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  19. Both my Mum and Dad had wonderful ways with words, written and the spoken. Dad had limited education, his parents could not afford to send him to High School, he would have had to find board, so he stayed at primary for one more year, and taught the new entrants, He went on to become Secretary of various committees, and President of others, On special occasions he would usually write words, a poem or tribute, and I still have many of these. My Mum did her Mental Health training and graduated in 1931, one of 5 out of 73 who sat their finals to achieve First Grade, and she had the highest marks in the written paper with 84%. Like many others, I wish I had kept all those letters from them, so many years ago. Your Dad's letters are a delight to read, and many thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Hi Jean! Thanks for your thoughtful comment! I remember your recent post on your mother's accomplishments in nursing! And also of how proud you are of your son who seems to have inherited some great genes! How sad that your father didn't have an opportunity to pursue higher studies. It sounds like he rose above those difficult circumstances. I've known a number of people who didn't have a lot of education, but were masters of the spoken word. Thanks also for saying kind things about my father's letters, and for always encouraging me! Take care!

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  20. Hi Louise!

    Thanks for co-hosting, and for visiting my blog. Much appreciated.

    I don't think I've ever had writer's block, but I'm terrified of it. Since I have no outline for my books, I'm always scared that the next time I sit down to write, I won't know what comes next and will have to "make it up." It sounds silly, but this fear is so pervasive that it often has me procrastinating and doing anything but writing.

    I always find going for a walk or having a bubble bath are great ways to come up with new ideas.

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    1. Thanks, JH! I've had such fun visiting all kinds of blogs today! Your fear doesn't sound silly! I am a master at procrastination and avoidance, especially if I'm worried my writing is going to be a slog rather than a flow. And I get what you're saying about not wanting to make something up. It's amazing how something just comes out of some mysterious place inside you and demands to be written it's way! It's authentic and alive, and if you try to force something to happen it doesn't feel real. It's one of the most fascinating things about writing to me.

      I have had tough bouts with writer's block in the past, but now I'm pretty good at getting past it. I write everything without an outline. It's like I discover my story or essay or whatever through writing and floundering about. In school or university, if I had to include an outline, I always wrote it after I finished the actual written piece.

      I taught young writers for many years, and I thought that all the outlining schemes too often led to formulaic writing. I know some writers are very successful outlining a book before they start seriously writing, but I just can't work that way!

      Thanks for your thought-provoking comment! Have a good one!

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  21. Funny, but I never liked writing as I grew up. And I avoided writing technical articles for work like the plague. But when I discovered how much fun writing fiction could be, I was hooked.

    Thanks for co-hosting this month's IWSG!

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    1. Hi Ken! Thanks for visiting my blog today! I'm glad you discovered the fun of fiction writing! I've met a number of writers who said that they didn't enjoy writing when they were growing up. I guess, if we're meant to write, we'll find a path to it sooner or later! I cringe at the tough of how I dreaded writing certain things for work! Now I'm retired, and I am having a blast! happy writing to you!

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  22. Hi...really appreciate your stop at my blog and thanks for co-hosting. I inherited the family's archives and long to dive in and do something. My great-grandmother wrote on scraps of paper, sides of her bible, just about everywhere. My mother grew up in a Norwegian home and often turned words around, but she loved language and always wanted to write. When she had a good dream, she often would say, "It was so real I could have written a novel." Today at 89 she's been handwriting her family's stories. They are such a treasure and I credit her with my desire to write. Good luck with 'your' treasure chest!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your family's story, Sharon! I have a lot of our family's archives. The letters, diaries, and photos bring me great joy, but also a feeling of great responsibility. How wonderful to have your great-grandmother words! I love that your mother is writing her stories! These powerful voices from the past deserve to be heard and remembered. Good luck right back at you! Take care!

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  23. I have always had books to read, and I wanted to be a writer at a young age, but gave it up as adult responsibilities pushed away such flighty thoughts. Now I am making a minor stab at it, but the words in my head just don't want to jump on that clean white page. Nice to see everyone has those same issues - even way back when. That was a cool letter to your mother, it does describe his feelings well. Writing concisely is a challenge for me.

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    1. Hi Dolorah! Thanks for sharing your journey! I, too, wanted to be a writer at a young age, but life got in the way. I was off to university to study English and got side-tracked by geology ~ actually entranced by it is more accurate! My first husband was a paralyzed vet, and I followed a tangled and heavy path through adult responsibilities. Now I'm recently retired and having a blast ~ finally writing, although a lot of the time I'm floundering about. Don't give up on stabbing and slashing away with your writing! Sooner or later, you will get there! I'm so thankful that I've finally reached the point where I can write and devote serious time to my passions. Now, if I can just live long enough to realize those creative dreams! That's the thought that wakes me up in the middle of the night! I keep reminding myself, it's all good, Louise! And it is! Take care!

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  24. Thanks for co-hosting! I've always written, which is strange because it doesn't run in my family at all. I'm the only one who enjoys reading! But I can't imagine doing anything else.

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    1. Thanks, Emma! I'm glad that you have found your passions, even if they don't run in your family! Good luck with your writing!

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  25. Your Landsdowne Letters truly are a treasure. I have very little written by my grandparents or parents, although I have convinced my dad to begin writing about some of his childhood and young adulthood in the last couple of years, and I treasure what he has done so far.

    I don't often suffer from Writer's Block. Thankfully. My dad thought it was a problem anyway. He called my problem vocal (written as well as spoken) diahrrea...

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    1. Vocal diahrrea! I love it, Snowcatcher! How wonderful that your dad is writing down his memories. I lost both my parents way too soon. How I wish I could sit down with them and beg them for more of their stories! I let myself get so caught up in life, always thinking there was time, and suddenly there wasn't.

      My Dad's Lansdowne Letters are a treasure to me, but you've got a living treasure sharing his stories. If writing gets daunting to your dad, perhaps you could get him talking and record his stories. The older I get, the more I realize how important these older voices are! Have a good one!

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  26. It's always so nice to learn more about the human side of our parents, isn't it? My mom wasn't a writer, but she loved vocabulary and would always help me with my vocab homework. We'd have so much fun making up sentences after I looked up the definitions. Fun memory. Thanks for stoking it.

    And thanks for hosting this month.

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    1. Yes, it is nice to learn about the human side of our parents, Kai! Thank you for sharing your sweet anecdote about your mom! When I was growing up my father was always this powerful giant of a man who had a huge impact on me. Now that I'm older, I see him as a person who had struggled and faced challenges that I had no clue about as a kid! It just makes me love him and miss him even more.

      My mom too! I've been so caught up in working with Dad's letters and writing, but that doesn't diminish the equally powerful impact my mother had on me. Your comment opened a flood of memories about my mother. She was always interested in writing and painting, but she put many of her creative dreams aside to be an amazing mother to her five children. I don't even remember learning to read! My mom read to me from the beginning, and we talked about books all of her life. Thanks for stoking my memory in return! have a good one!

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  27. I've had writer's block- it's awful! :( I think you have a wonderful way of learning about your father. That is why I write too because I think even if I never publish a word, it will leave a window into my world for my children.

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    1. What a wonderful way of looking at your writing, TJ! Your children's lives will be richer because of what you pass onto them. I always loved my parents letters and other wiring that they did, but the older I get the more their words mean to me. I truly want to get my book published, but the process of writing it is so rewarding and meaningful for me, that publishing it would seem like icing on a cake! Thanks for visiting!

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  28. Wonderful post. My mother was not a writer, however, she taught me to read, before I was walking good. She took me to the library. I was an only child, so books became my friends. I could read before entering kindergarten, so yes my mother contributed to my love reading and the written word. Happy IWSG day,
    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

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    1. Thanks for sharing your memories, Juneta! I'm reading your comment, and it was like reading about me! My mom read to me from the beginning and taught me to read so early I can't remember not being able to read!! She took me to the library and surrounded me with books and magazines. And we talked stories and books always. This has been the best IWSG day yet! Take care!

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  29. I've suffered from writer's block every so often but it passes. It's so cool that your parents were writers and you grew up with a love of writing. Great post and happy writing!

    Book Reviews by Lanise Brown

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    1. Thanks for your kind comment, Lanise! Fortunately I'm managed to get through most of my writer's blocks pretty quickly. They do pass! Have a great day tomorrow, which I guess is now today! I think I'm going to be sleeping in!

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  30. Thanks for the #IWSG visit yesterday, Fundy! Real Life is kicking my behind and it was nice to see a comment. ;-)

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    1. Hey Zan! It was such fun do-hosting yesterday and meeting new-to-me IWSG members like you. BTW, I loved the description you had about you and words on the upper left of your blog. I love language and all the different ways it is used. I hope things lighten up for you soon! Life certainly has its rough, choppy waters, but there is usually lots of smooth water ahead. Take care!

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  31. I'm among the "never liked to write as a kid" category. Realized years later was mostly due to being assigned writing. Now that I'm older and the clouds have cleared, I now know I have something worthwhile to say. I'm also among those that life creates its own breaks in my writing. A granddaughter about to graduate from high school and 2 grandsons (7 & 4) getting ready to start little league baseball next week. Got to get my game-face on (just kidding).
    Thanks for being a co-host this month and for paying me a visit!

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  32. You're welcome, Terry! It's a whole different ball game when you are writing what you want instead of what you are assigned, isn't it? I believe every person is unique and has a story worth telling. Good luck with your writing! Take care!

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  33. For me, reading came first.
    As a child, we ALWAYS had books at home.
    Back in the day, my mother had a Readers Digest subscription. She was an avid reader and that's where I learned to appreciate books. We received the small monthly digest, and she would often buy other books from the catalogue, including those condensed compilations which had about 4 or 5 stories.
    I grew up reading and was never bored, because I always had a book to read (unlike today's kids who are always bored... unless they're on social media which seems to occupy every spare moment...)
    Thank you for co-hosting the IWSG this month!

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    1. Thank you for sharing you story, Michelle! We always had books too ~ including a set of encyclopedias so old that the inside covers showed how long it would take for a train to go to the sun, the moon, and the planets! My grandmother MacDonald always had Readers Digest, as did my mom! I still have to read every day! It's sad to see reading less exciting to today's kiddos ~ but some really enjoy it, so there's still hope! Have a good one!

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Thank you for your comments! I appreciate the time and energy you put into making them very much.