Slice of Life 2021 Day 24: On Hitting the Wall

Today marks Day 24 of the Slice of Life challenge. Join me as I work to write every day in March – and beyond!

This is only my second year participating in the Slice of Life challenge, but I’ve still noticed patterns. Perhaps that’s the systematic, mathematical part of my brain that always wants to go for a spin. However you break it down, though, I’ve noticed threads.

The biggest thing I observed is that just about everyone, at some point, struggles for something to write about. Those posts come in various forms: the “I-didn’t-know-what-to-slice-about-so-I-wrote-this-poem” poems, the “I-had-writers’-block-so-this-was-what-I-came-up-with” posts, the “I-didn’t-think-I-had-anything-to-say-until-this-happened” entries, and so on.

And within these entries lies the true genius of this challenge:

We DON’T have to have great ideas every day.
We DON’T always have be be refined and articulate.
We DON’T have to love everything we write.

But we DO need to write every day.
We DO need to be in the practice of putting work into the world.
We DO need to maintain that muscle memory of going from thought to written word.

For me, that (re-)discovery is critical. It’s the practice of writing, of allowing enough mental quiet to listen for words to come, even when I think I have nothing to say. It forces my growth as a writer.

This challenge, this struggle, is what so many of my kids come up against every time they face a blank page, a blank screen. And the fact that we writers go through this difficulty ourselves, it makes us all the more earnest in our own teaching of writing.

We’ve been there. We know what it’s like. We’ve felt the anxiety, the dread, the disappointment.

Our kids need to know that.

We’ve also come through the other side.

Our kids need to know that.

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43 Responses to “Slice of Life 2021 Day 24: On Hitting the Wall”

  1. Katie Diez Says:

    Thank you for this. I am in that rut today and feeling stuck. Thank you for the reminder that this is normal and that I just need to keep writing through this road block.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thank YOU! I keep having to re-learn that we as grown-up writers still need solidarity and validation. It’s what makes me so grateful for this community.

  2. carolannclark Says:

    This is perfect! I don’t usually write during the day but I have a break in conferences so I decided to write early. I have no topics. This slice made me feel better about that. Thanks for the validation!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      And thanks for the solidarity. Now I’ll have to dip over to your blog and see what you ended up with!

  3. arjeha Says:

    You are so right. It is important that we write even though we think we have nothing to say. I have been there several times. And yes, our students need to know that we struggle just as they do and we do come out on the other side just as they will. Thanks for a great post.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks! For what it’s worth, I still have that voice of doubt about what I’m saying, even when I’m posting something I believe strongly in. Which perhaps says something deeper about perfectionism. But there you go…

  4. glenda funk Says:

    Every word you’ve written is true. I see those patterns you name. Yes, teachers writing gives them insight into students’ writing struggles. I think when students see their teachers as writers it deepens the relationship, too.
    Before the challenge started I wrote a post about how I find topics and the list I started a couple weeks prior to March 1. I’ve reread that list but only used a couple topics from it. I think my students would have “throttled” me had I said I have nothing to write about.,

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Ha! I think you’re right about the throttling- especially when we think about how we as teachers often respond to our students when they balk at a particular writing activity or exercise. It certainly serves us a slice of humble pie!

  5. dianelisa2 Says:

    Your essay is a great pep talk! I needed to be reminded that I don’t need to always have great ideas, to be refined and articulate, and to love what I write. My post today is mediocre, but I just needed to crank something out.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks for the solidarity! I’ve had my share of posts that I’ve looked back on and thought…”meh.” But you’re right. Sometimes it’s a matter of just keeping the machine moving.

  6. Jenny Says:

    This is what drove me to participate this year. I didn’t think I would be able to make the time or space or devote the mental energy, but it felt so important to put myself in my students shoes. There are days when I struggle to write (and, honestly, there have been two days that I have not posted), but having this experience puts me in the shoes of my students, reminding me that every day doesn’t need to be brilliant, that I never know what I will grow from an unexpected sentence, that the benefits of this practice far outweigh the difficulty of those stuck moments.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thank you. And yes! I can’t help but think that our children love and respect us all the more for our struggles. It makes me think – how would WE respond (or how would an ordinary teacher respond) to a kid declining a writing assignment by saying, “I just don’t feel like writing today.” They don’t *have* that choice – which fuels my respect for them even more.

  7. Terje Says:

    Yes, it’s the sit-down-and-write, put-the-pen-on-paper, little-writing-is-better-than-no-writing that matters. And, yes, the students need to know that we too have the struggles. These days happen to everyone, even for the ones who have written for a decade.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Your comment makes me wonder if there are sources for authors writing about their own struggles with writer’s block, or their difficulty with anxiety or perfectionism. That would be an interesting deep dive…

  8. Anita Ferreri Says:

    Your post is WHY we write again and again and again…as a reminder to ourselves and our students. Writing is not easy and having to write does not mean an idea; however, writing every day is an exercise just like going for a walk and when you are in the habit it is a wee bit easier!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Yes, it’s that habit of writing – I feel like I need to train it more for myself. I really like the idea of seeing it as exercise, and you’re right – both the discipline of it, and the benefits that follow. Thanks for the new perspective!

  9. Maureen Young Ingram Says:

    Thoughtful and spot on, again, Lainie! Yes, we must just keep on, keep on. There will always be blank days, but sitting down and writing often reveals more . . . .

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Yes it absolutely does. And sometimes, those days where we don’t see anything coming are the ones where words surprise us the most! There’s nothing like sitting down to write something, only to have it take an unexpected turn.

  10. Rita K. Says:

    I’ve had a lot of those days this March, but after slicing I feel so good. I’ve put something on the page, I’ve honored my commitment and sometimes, I’m find surprise or delight in the words that emerged. This post is a keeper!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Yes, absolutely! I always feel better after I’ve gotten myself to write – but that doesn’t take away the occasional apprehension I have about it. Guess that goes with the territory. Thanks for your encouragement!

  11. hsatlas Says:

    “Allowing enough mental quiet to listen for words to come” – that’s really it in a nutshell. This is a wonderful post! It truly captures so much about the writing process – from searching for a topic to realizing that not everything you write will be great. We certainly become our students, and feel that same struggle they do because writing, and writing every day, is difficult.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Yes, it is! I think we shape a different kind of relationship with our kids when we take on some of the challenges we ask them to do – but THAT’s a subject for another soapbox. =)

  12. mschiubookawrites Says:

    100% yes to all of this. The dos and don’ts are so important for students to recognize that we all go through this “block”. As always, you articulate this sentiment with power and purpose.

  13. hzreflections Says:

    Great post. I totally agree with this. And I feel this pressure to not waste my readers’ time reading my post if it is blah. But you are right. Thanks for the thoughts for this first year slicer. AND I loved your last three lines.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks! I often struggle more with the final lines than any other part of my writing. It’s like, they’re the ones who do the work of accomplishing what I’ve set out to do. It’s a big job for them! =)

  14. thelifeofamomteacherandwife Says:

    Your words are so true and this challenge always reminds me to just push through and write. I always encourage my kids to just write whatever comes to mind, don’t worry about it being perfect, it’s not meant to be perfect. Sometimes we just need to put the words on the page, get the juices flowin’, and see where our words take us. That is the hardest lesson to learn especially as adults!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Oh the perfection piece! That’s a BIG one I’ve had to let go, for SURE. Sometimes I’m ok dashing off a post and putting it out there. Other days, it’s review-revise-review-revise…it IS a hard lesson to learn for us all.

  15. Elisabeth Ellington Says:

    Wonderful post! I love how you use this scenario that we have probably all experienced this month to draw conclusions that enrich our teaching practice. One thing I always remember in March is what a discipline and a daily practice writing can be. I don’t always love working out, but I’m always glad I did it. And writing is the same. I don’t always love writing while I’m doing it, but I’m always glad I did.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Absolutely. There are a LOT of parallels to working out, especially where it comes to the idea of developing muscle memory, habits, technique. THAT could definitely be another post. There may even be a draft along those lines gathering dust somewhere in my collection…

  16. theapplesinmyorchard Says:

    Spot on!

  17. Fran Haley Says:

    This is my takeaway line: “Allowing enough mental quiet to listen for words to come, even when I think I have nothing to say.” – therein lies the magic. There is always something to say, infinitely something to say, if we but listen.. as always, Lainie, all is so well-said and so true. Particularly about letting the kids know that we struggle just the same as they do – and that pressing on means pressing through.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      YES. And we also sometimes need to let them in on the dirty little secret: that struggles don’t just end with writing. And they don’t go away once we have our grown-up credentials, whatever that may be. Whether it’s writing, or getting along with people, or understanding ourselves or the world around us, things are MESSY. Ah…there I go again. <>

  18. britt Says:

    It’s….only…. your second year??!! I thought you were a lifer, ma’am! 🙂

    “We DON’T have to love everything we write.” This right here. I struggle with this one so much because I want to be in love with every single word I produce. I allow myself to overthink if I should have clicked publish when I’m unsure; in fact, I am still thinking about a post from week two of this month…. That’s crazy, huh? Thank you for sharing 💜

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      NOT crazy at all. As far as the overthinking goes, I don’t even want to tell you how many times I go back and forth between “preview” and “edit.” In my defense, there are things I just don’t notice unless I see how they will look in the final form…and, thanks for the validation and encouragement – today and every day.

      • britt Says:

        YES to the toggling between “preview” and “edit.” Phew. It’s been quite the lesson learned this month. In a fun way! 🙂

  19. kd0602 Says:

    Yes! This is what I love best about the 31 day challenge in March. When you expect to write, you figure out what to write. That’s what I want my students to know about writing too. We’re getting there…

    Kim

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Yes! And of course, when we get “there,” we realize what’s next. And then it hits us. There’s no “there” there. Always what’s next, what’s next, what’s next. Another wonderful thing about writing – and about this community!

  20. mgminer Says:

    You nailed it. “It’s the practice of writing, of allowing enough mental quiet to listen for words to come, even when I think I have nothing to say. It forces my growth as a writer.”

  21. Shaista Says:

    This is so true! I’d write too, however stuck I was, if only for the kids’ sakes!

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