National Writing Project

Finding the Unattainable Words

Publication: Capital District Writing Project
Date: July 19, 2012

Summary: After participating in the 2012 Summer Institute at the Capital District Writing Project (New York), teacher-consultant Nancy Gort discusses her success in overcoming the difficulty of writer's block by forcing herself to write every day, "finding the unattainable words."


Excerpt from Blog Post

Though I've been teaching English for two years, and I've participated in the [Capital District Writing Project] summer institute for two weeks, it wasn't until I read [Peter] Elbow's introduction that I finally realized how to overcome some of my "block," or at least attempt to. How am I going to get better at something, how am I going to be able to better teach this subject, how am I going to impress good writing practices on my students if I don't regularly practice? Sports, music, art — they all require practice to achieve success. Writing is no different. As a musician (I've played the viola for 19 years), the idea of practice as a catalyst and necessity for improvement is not new. No one picks up an instrument and plays it perfectly the first time. It takes hours of repetition, hours of mistakes, missed notes and muscle memory to get it right, and right isn't necessarily perfect. We learn from our imperfect practice. . . .

. . . You've put words on a page, words that were previously unattainable; that's a step forward. Your next draft can only be better.

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Read "Finding the Unattainable Words" from the Capital District Writing Project.

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