Fighting Writer’s Block – The Bradley Scout

Photo by Angeline Schmelzer.

The hardest thing to write is the first sentence.

In journalism, you put a lot of pressure on the first sentence; it is the lead (or lede), after all. It should capture the reader’s attention, while informing them of the most important details. Similar criteria apply to professional emails, academic articles, and fictional stories.

A text is worth only its first sentence.

Bad!

Yes, you can revise the first draft multiple times until it becomes whatever you want it to be, but you have to jot something down first. Words can be changed, syntax can be revised, and a comma can be replaced. You don’t have to give so much weight to the first thing you type on a page.

One of the best writing tips I’ve ever received came from my mother. She’s not a professional writer, but she’s the best person to turn to in times of crisis. During one of our many conversations where I doubted myself and told her I didn’t know what to write, she said, “Just start with ‘the'”.
Now, whenever I run out of words, I start with the word “the”. You do not believe me ? Reread the first sentence. And yes, I also think of that pivotal moment in “Spongebob Squarepants” when he wrote the fantasy “The”.

Sometimes I can start with the first word and my fingers slide across the keyboard like I’m in the “Click, Clack, Moo” book, but other times my words move like a slow traffic jam. One word, stop, finish the thought, change the music, start a new paragraph, look out the window a bit, write a bit more, reread the sentence five times and realize it’s too long and come to a full stop.

Maybe I’m slow to get to the point, but good writing takes time, doesn’t it?

What I’m saying is that writing can be a lot like living, especially now that I’m experiencing a whole new kind of writer’s block.

What am I going to do next?

Before now, I had a plan. The table of contents was clear: go to school, get good grades, go to college and graduate. It was all there in a neatly organized, double-spaced document.

I knew I would major in journalism because I loved writing and enjoyed my journalism course in high school. I had no doubt in my mind that I would join The Scout as soon as I could. I even put the nameplate on my high school graduation cap with the phrase “and the story continues”.

Photo by Angeline Schmelzer.

Adding a management and leadership minor was an unplanned event, but learning leadership skills has helped me in my role as editor of The Scout. The Advertising/PR minor was an easy stint to add after meeting the amazing professors who ran the program.

Now I’m looking at an almost blank page with only three words.

To have. A work.

Much like the first sentence, the first job out of college has a similar pressure and the same advice applies.

Get it on the page. In this case, the CV.

The first job doesn’t have to be the most glorious gig or an everlasting career, it just has to happen and be a starting point for future and better things. This is just the introduction, and there will surely be more examples in the body.

Many people helped me write my Bradley memoir, and I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge all they did to help me get to where I am today.

First and foremost, I would be nowhere without the guidance I received from my parents. I’ve written about each of them during my time at Scout, but words can’t express how truly grateful I am to have two wonderful parents supporting me through all of my adventures and twists and turns.

My teachers have also been the best support characters in my life because they listened to my complaints, pointed me in the right direction, and let me take up way too much of their time. Sara Netzley, Cory Barker, Rachelle Pavelko, and Grace Wang: Thank you for all the hours spent in your offices discussing class and life.

Last but not least, I have to thank The Scout. This Sisson office, where I write this column and hold back my tears, will always hold a special place in my heart.

I’m currently sitting in the very spot where Tony Xu and Cole Bredahl interviewed me for the editor on September 2, 2018. I remember being amazed by the quote board and the beanbag – two things that stand out to me. will be greatly missed. Thank you for taking a chance on a freshman and letting me into this unforgettable space.

To our Advisor Chris Kaergard, you have been an incredible leader and teacher. I learned so much about the world of journalism through our Sunday conversations and critiques.

Thanks to Haley Johnson for being a great leader and an even better friend. I miss your presence in this office, but you have left an indelible mark on this organization and on my life.

Valérie Vasconez, you’re sitting across from me now, perhaps working on your own main column. Who would have thought that we would become such good friends? We will always have our laughs and our amazing meals together. Good luck, and I look forward to reading your very successful travel blog.

Jade Sewell, you are a shining light that will never lose its shine. Thanks for all the laughs. I’ll probably miss you more than I think right now, especially the times we’re recording the “Study Break” podcast. Maybe we should start our own podcast just for fun and see where it leads.

To the next team of writers: I have so much faith in all of you, and I know you will do a great job carrying on the legacy of this organization. Thursday nights are tough, but worth it. I even think that I will miss them… but not for long. If I ever wake up at 3 a.m. on a Friday morning to weirdly chirping birds, I’ll think of you.

Writer’s block can be a big hurdle to clear when you’re on deadline – especially at midnight when you realize the editorial isn’t finished, or on a day when a lot of work is due – but sometimes, it’s okay to embrace writer’s block and let the words flow naturally.

That first sentence, that first job, that first step in a new direction will come soon enough. It is also acceptable to stare at a blank page for a while.

As I write the conclusion of my chapter on Bradley, I am sad that it is over. However, I’m also looking forward to seeing how the next chapter will begin.

The end.