Eavan Boland

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The Moment vs. Writer’s Block

Some people are fervent believers in writer’s block. They stare at paper. Paper stares back at them. They stare at screens. Screens stare back at them.

Me? I’m rude. I write on paper and type across screens with little regard for their whiteness.

What’s in a first draft, after all? Mostly garbage. So why so much respect for writer’s block?

Whenever I hear talk of writer’s block, I bring up the pedestrian term moment. “OK,” I say, real casual like, “write about a moment. Could be any moment. Could be this moment, even. Moments don’t care. They’re free and, when it comes to first drafts, every one of them is willing — more than willing — to share.”

All of which means you’ll be doing one of two things: a.) checking into stand-out memories and asking yourself the 5 W’s/1 H (who, what, why, when, where, how) and the five senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell), OR b.) drinking in the moment around you right now, hitting you over the head, practically. Clearing its throat. Waving its arms and asking, “What about me, writer? I’m game for the 5 W’s, the 1 H, and the five senses, too.”

You can bet the poet Evan Boland did a. or b. above when she penned the first draft to the poem below, aptly named…


The Moment
Eavan Boland

A neighborhood.
At dusk.

Things are getting ready
to happen
out of sight.

Stars and moths.
And rinds slanting around fruit.

But not yet.

One tree is black.
One window is yellow as butter.

A woman leans down to catch a child
who has run into her arms
this moment.

Stars rise.
Moths flutter.
Apples sweeten in the dark.


If you’re wondering what words appeared in her first draft, I’m worried about you. Go to the concrete imagery first: stars, moths, fruit rinds, a black tree, a lit window, a mother and child.

If that list doesn’t look like much to you, then you don’t understand the writing process. Yes, even a list counts as a first draft in my book, and even a list brings the mighty writer’s block to its knees (assuming blocks have knees, which I do because I have a poetic license as good as any Harry Potter “Creativido!” wand spell).

Consider this: The wonderful simile “One window is yellow as butter” no doubt started as a lit window. Then, in subsequent drafts, the poet asked herself what that soft yellow color looked like as it softly punched its shape into the night. Butter, of course.

Is this a lesson? Probably not. Unless there’s something to be learned in the obvious: Writer’s block doesn’t stand a chance against the moments we live every day.