Even award-winning authors struggle with writer’s block

Rebecca Stead confesses: "I never know what I want to write next, and it's really hard for me"

+Rebecca+Stead+%28second+from+left%29+poses+with+reporters+from+the+Watertown+public+school+newspapers+during+the+author%27s+visit+to+Lesley+University+in+Cambridge%2C+Mass.%2C+on+Jan.+8%2C+2014.
 Rebecca Stead (second from left) poses with reporters from the Watertown public school newspapers during the author's visit to Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., on Jan. 8, 2014.

Rebecca Stead (second from left) poses with reporters from the Watertown public school newspapers during the author's visit to Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., on Jan. 8, 2014.

Rebecca Stead (second from left) poses with reporters from the Watertown public school newspapers during the author's visit to Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., on Jan. 8, 2014.

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When it comes to writer’s block, Rebecca Stead, the Newbery Medal-winning author, is an expert.

She uses a sort of “pick things up as you go” method. This gives her a lot of room and freedom to write just about anything she wants, but, it also makes her have no idea what to write next.

When asked about her writer’s block, Stead replied energetically, “That is my permanent state of being! That’s how I live! I never know what I want to write next, almost never, and it’s really hard for me.”

Stead talked about writing with student reporters from Watertown before she was to give a talk at Lesley University on Jan. 8, 2014. She was wearing a black longsleeved top and was very relaxed. She smiled often and was very human, very down to earth, mirthful, and friendly.

When Stead writes, she starts with a first draft. When writing a draft, she tries to write every day and type every night. Once she has a first draft written, she shapes it into a real story.

“Most of the process of writing is about taking that first draft, which I consider raw material, and kind of shaping it into what you want it to be,” says Stead.

Revising takes a very long time, though. For example, her first book, “First Light,” took four years to be revise and ready for publication.

If she is feeling stuck and can’t think of anything, she’ll take reading breaks, which helps spark her creativity. Stead says that she rarely knows what to write next because she likes to write in pieces and come up with things as she goes.

Stead has two sons and is married to attorney Sean O’Brien. She and her family live in Manhattan. She was born and raised in New York and loved to read when she was younger. In fact, she still has a love for reading and says it helps a lot when writing.

Before she was an author, she was a lawyer because she thought that writing was “impractical” since it wasn’t much of a job. However, when one of her children knocked down a laptop that contained most of her early short stories, thus losing them, she began again, getting more serious about writing and started “First Light,” her first novel.

From then on, she started getting more and more involved in writing until eventually she turned down a law job to become an author and write more seriously.

After she became a full time author, she finished “First Light” and wrote “When You Reach Me.” Then, she wrote her most recently finished book, “Liar & Spy”.

“After winning the Newbery Medal for my second novel, “When You Reach Me,” I felt like all eyes were on me, making it hard to write because it was putting pressure on me,” said Stead.

So, she turned to her community of writer friends who help her when she gets stuck. Some of these friends include Deborah Heiligman, Wendy Mass, and Marthe Jocelyn.

Some tips that she gives to budding authors:

* Read!!!

* Don’t to be disappointed with a first draft

* Tolerate the feeling of not knowing what to write

* Don’t get discouraged

* Try out more than one scene for parts of your story

* Try not to get nervous or scared

* Be patient.

 

–March 9, 2014–

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