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Do you find writing a work or a wonder?

The wordsmith’s life can be daunting or drudgery, bold or boring, stimulating or sleep-inducing. What do you make of it?

As long as new ideas, story leads and source availability keep coming, writing is a blast.

Just ask my long-ago college English professor Sharon O’Brien. (Nope, I’m not telling how long ago it was.) O’Brien has authored several books, including Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice, New Essays on My Antonia and The Family Silver: A Memoir of Depression and Inheritance.

Here’s how O’Brien described her own writing life.

“Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning,” she said. “I wanted to know what I was going to say.”

Do you love it?

Sharon O'Brien
The art of wordsmithing is sometimes surprising.

See? Writers even shock ourselves, once the ink and ideas begin to flow. Occasionally, an astounding turn of phrase may appear, almost knocking the writer right out of his or her chair.

Sometimes, the thrill of the chase is enough. Tracking down hidden facts for a breaking news story is exciting. Playing with words to craft a clever description is fun. Finding a novel twist for a timely feature is rewarding.

Maybe we just have to get over the fear of the dreaded blank page or screen.

Sure, we’ve all felt the eerie emptiness that occasionally freezes our fingers, leaving the creative process seemingly dead in its proverbial tracks. At such times, I like to revisit the unstructured free-writing exercises of English Composition classes and just start filling up the page with whatever comes.

Try it. See what happens. You can always go back and edit later. Look for nuggets of gold in the pile of gravel you may find. It’s probably in there someplace, if you hunker down and hunt.

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Sharon O'Brien
Dickinson College faculty photo

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