The Writer-Blocking Boogeyman

Written By: Yavaria Ryan, Poetry Reader

When I was younger, I had frequent bad dreams of bad people wanting to hurt me. I would wake in shivers, run to my mother’s room, shake her awake, and beg to crawl into her bed because that was the only place that ever felt safe. At the time, we were forbidden to tell stories about our nightmares before dawn because my great-grandmother warned us that it would come true; therefore, I fell into a nightly routine of sleeping, waking in terror, and running to my mother for solace.


Nigel Pennick

I believe I was five when my mother told me to stop it all. Stop the bad dreams, the waking in terror, the running from room to room. She told me the truth about our minds and our imaginations. She looked me in my teary eyes and said, “You know you can change your dreams, right?”

Of course I had no idea what she was talking about. I was five, and the boogeyman was trying to get me. My mother took my hands and said, “When the boogey man appears, turn him into Santa Claus. Make him give you gifts. These are your dreams. You control them, remember?”

I knew she was right about me being able to control my dreams and emotions, but I had no clue how this way of thinking would help shape the way I face my writer’s block.

For me, writer’s block is the boogeyman, and he is one frightening creature. I say, “I am going to write a poem today.” He approaches me with a stern, “No,” and snatches my pencil out of my hand. Sometimes, my writer-blocking boogeyman haunts me for months, forcing me to throw in the towel on whatever poem or story I have been working on. How on earth do I escape this ferocious beast?

Well, I do not escape. I do not run and hide. I do not let my frustrations take over. I do exactly what my mother told me to do when I was five and the boogeyman would chase me in my dreams. I change my course of thinking. I change my plan of action. I go through the backdoor and imagine how funny the boogeyman would be in his underwear.  I write around writer’s block.


Deviantart: Lunagraph

My writer’s block occurs when I have to say something that I do not want to say. Whether it is a personal event or a situation that hits too close to home, writer’s block has found a way to build a wall that makes me say, “I can’t write this. I have writer’s block. I’ll figure something out later,” but later never comes, and that’s the problem.

In order to combat this situation, journaling has been my best tool. Journaling every day, even when I feel there is nothing to journal about, has helped me overcome writer’s block by showing myself that there is always writing to be done and things to be said. We can always write through writer’s block.

Some of my favorite journaling exercises for writer’s block include beginning sentences with I remember when, I almost forgot the time, and One day I will. These generative sentences provide facile topics that push me to write words, even when my mind staunchly refuses.  

Of course, there are many articles with exercises that speak about how to combat our writer-blocking nemesis by changing the scenery, cutting our papers to tiny bits and rearranging them, switching from digital to paper, or simply walking away for a moment, but everyone’s story and writing practice is different.

All I can say for certain is this: my writer’s block is a ferocious boogeyman whom I keep writing around on dirty napkins, over-used notebooks, biology textbooks I have no use for, and limbs I keep scrubbing things off of. Instead of caving into writer’s block, tackle him head on. Show him you are not scared to keep writing and dreaming. Show him you are fearless.


Why You Write

Written by: Loan Le – Fiction Section Editor

So, here you are. You have turned down invitations to parties and happy hours, because you cannot socialize when you have a character in your mind, her voice echoing like a message over a PA system in an empty hallway. You have endured strangers’ tilted heads, the sardonic curl of their lips, the upspeak “Oh, really?” when you explain that you are a writer. Your worth has been challenged and measured against already established writers. Your work is “not the right fit” for this journal or that magazine. All of this has left you despairing, wondering why you have chosen this particular way of being, which lately brings much more pain than reward.


Credit: John Liu

Step back. Somewhere, find a pocket of peace where your thoughts are your own, where you hear only yourself. Recognize, first, that by writing, you have created a record of metamorphosis. As a child, you started out with the alphabet, tracing lines and curves of letters with a No. 2 pencil and combining them to make things called words. And then you strung them together like beads on thread to form a necklace, and another, and another, until you found it: your voice. You. My name is . . .  I am . . .  My mother and father are . . . You came to know yourself through writing. 

But who are you in this world? You are not alone. You have spent so many years pressing yourself against the wall, content to be unseen. Writing constructs the bridge between you and them. Through writing, you see that the world is much more—ever-shifting kaleidoscopic colors everywhere you look. What you see is what you get? No, you are greedy. You want to find that gesture that dispels what you think you know. Maybe, that businessman with bags under his eyes hasn’t been working out of selfishness, but for his wife who’s dying of cancer; working makes money to buy the meds, and working keeps time away, and that is salvation for him. Maybe, that girl wearing Beats headphones is not drowning out the world, but is building a new one that brims with harmonies, melodies, and delicious rhythms. You imagine all the potential of strangers in your coffee shop, at the gym, and on the subway. You play out their life stories, their hopes and fears, their triumphs and demise. You walk among them, but do not merely pass them. You understand—or at least try to.


Credit: Liz West

Writing is proof. You are a keeper of time and existence. You recognize something precious, distill it, and make it sempiternal. Your words ring on. In the future, you will read your writing to remember what once was.

You write to lift others, penning sentences that begin with a mourning cry, offering teardrops of ink, which eventually dry. Soon enough, your writing bellows. You wield your pen, like many masters before you, to protect and unite. Your writing is a burden, but you cannot deny the light it brings.

So, here you are. Your pen hovers over your notepad as you let glimpses and sounds trickle through your mind. Outside it is morning, the blurry haze of things beginning—or night, the darkness soliciting you, beckoning you to indulge. The world moves but you choose to be still. You are present. You are here. And you are writing.