What’s your favorite book from childhood?
I bet it holds magical memories for you. And you know what? It holds tips for ditching writer’s block, too.
Wanna see how?
Great. For this adventure, I recruited my 4 siblings, Kurt, Kellie, Laurel and Eric to help me show you.
Spoiler alert: To illustrate a book’s block-ditching tip, I included a story description that reveals plot twists and endings.
Without further delay here are 5 kid classics and their block-ditching tips.
Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
Stanley Lambshop’s life changes drastically the night he’s flattened by a bulletin board. At first being a mere half-inch thick appears to be a major inconvenience. But Stanley quickly embraces the benefits.
Who wouldn’t want to slide under closed doors? Or slip through a street grate to rescue mom’s wedding ring? Or mail oneself across the country to bypass long TSA lines?
That and Stanley gets to soar high in the sky as a human kite… AND pose as a priceless painting to bust a pair of art thieves.
Awesome! Until Stanley starts to long for his old life as a regular-shaped kid. He’s grown sick of overhearing flat jokes on the playground. Luckily Stanley’s clever brother, Arthur, works out a way to inflate him back to his old self. Nice!
My brother Kurt’s favorite because…
“it was amazing how Stanley became flat. He enjoyed doing the things he wanted such as soaring and getting into tight places. He enjoyed what he was doing but missed being a regular boy. He missed what he truly had, which was a loving family.”
Block-ditching tip: Work with instead of against the life challenges that threaten to flatten your writing day.
For me that means on a morning I sleep through my three alarms – after a late night of hanging with my pal, Insomnia – I’ll work with my remaining writing time and not throw my arms up in defeat.
Question: What threatens to flatten your writing day? How can you work with it, instead of against it?
The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey
Each day five little puppies dig a hole under their fence and explore the wide, wide world. Four of the pups race home when they sense desert’s ready – only to be greeted by an angry mama who scolds her naughty pups and sends them to bed with none.
Meanwhile, the fifth pup lags behind – nose to the ground – discovering nature’s wonders. He returns after everyone has gone to bed and helps himself to the day’s sweet treat. Until…
One night four little puppies fill the hole, making mama so proud she rewards them with strawberry shortcake. Poor Poky arrives home just in time to watch his brothers lap up the last bite.
My sister Kellie’s favorite because…
“It encourages you to break the rules and take risks to explore. Sometimes the return on what we discover is rewarding. Other times the risk doesn’t yield a positive outcome or hurts someone in the process.”
Block-ditching tip: Go ahead. Break some writing rules – with this in mind – be prepared to own it.
What’s that Grammarly? I overuse the ellipsis? Never…there’s always room for ellipses! Yep, I run the risk of losing some readers. Sorry to see them go. But I found my blogging voice while exploring unconventional sentence stylings…AND I own it:-)
Question: What writing rule are you itching to break, but worry about pushback?
Go for it, kid!
The Monster at The End of This Book by Jon Stone
A little bird or the book’s title warns Sesame Street’s huggable Grover about a monster. And it’s lurking at the end of the book in hand. A terrified Grover pleads with us to not turn the page.
Sorry Grover. We’re curious kids who can’t resist the urge to discover what happens next. Luckily, Grover’s a resourceful guy and ties the pages shut to stop us. When we bust past that, he erects a brick wall.
That doesn’t stop us either. And inevitably we reach the final page, revealing… Grover? Awww. A monster, but definitely not a scary one.
My sister Laurel’s favorite…
“Because of the drama & excitement! I remember getting wrapped up in Grover’s anxiousness and stress as I read in a louder and louder voice, all while knowing it was just a joke;-)”
Block-ditching tip: Face a writing fear. How scary can it be? More often than not, our fears are just our Gremlin (inner critic) trying to sabotage our writing day.
I test this tip by facing a fear at the end of this post. Fingers crossed.
Question: What’s one writing fear that’s holding you back? How can you face it?
The Fire Cat by Esther Averill
Pickles, a stray cat with big paws, wants to do big things. But he’s bored…so bored he passes his days bullying fellow felines in his hood.
His human neighbor, Mrs. Goodkind, believes in Pickles and tries to help by providing food and a home. But pickles can’t stand the lap cat lifestyle and resumes his life on the streets, until…
The day Pickles gets stuck in a tree and is rescued by fireman Joe.
Mrs. Goodkind and Joe team up to land Pickles a gig at the firehouse, on the condition that Pickles earns his place. So, he devotes his days to mastering a fireman’s duties and earns the rank of Fire Cat. His ultimate challenge? Rescuing a little cat from that life-altering tree in his old yard. Bravo, Pickles!
My favorite because…
As a young kid I loved cats and the book’s pen & ink illustrations. Simple as that. As a teen I read it to kids during babysitting gigs and related to Pickles’ desire and drive to do big things.
Block-ditching Tip: You can do big things with your writing. Just make like Pickles and throw yourself into your craft every day.
Note To Self: Don’t quit on the days when stringing two coherent words together feels impossible. Smile at the challenge and write:-)
Question: What can you do to up the ante and hone your craft?
Bravest of All by Kate Emery Pogue
Jonathan, a senior fireman, spends his days sharing stories with neighborhood kids about his glory days, when he and trusty old Engine No. 1 rescued the town from its most destructive fires.
The station’s young guns see him as an old-timer who can’t do the work anymore. And when a multi-alarm blaze calls them away, they leave Jonathan behind to hold down the fort. That is until the bell rings – cueing him to hop aboard Engine No. 1 and race to a young family’s burning home.
He puts out the fire and returns before the young guns. And they’d know nothing of his late night heroism if it weren’t for the little boy, who stops by to return a badge that had fallen off Jonathan’s helmet, while saving his house.
“What does it say?” asks a young gun. BRAVEST OF ALL. Our humble hero gains instant respect and admiration from his young mates.
My brother Eric’s favorite…
In January 2014, my brother lost his battle with leukemia, at the young gun age of 43. So, I couldn’t ask him why he loved this book – specifically why this book over all others featuring firefighters. Our mom graciously filled in the blanks…
“He loved the hero’s journey and the little boy. I think he put himself in the boy’s shoes and wanted to be like Jonathan when he grew up.”
You did just that big bro. Well done. And thank you.
Block-ditching tip: Be truly brave and don’t dismiss the advice of a seasoned pro. They’ve put out far more writing fires than us young guns, no matter our age and experience level.
Excuse me while I put a mentor’s advice into play.
Now that that’s done…
Question: Who can you turn to for writing advice?
With that, I just faced a huge fear. And survived!
This is my first time publishing words about my brother’s passing. I’ve let my irrational fear – writing about his death makes it true – hold me back. Of course, any rational person knows that not writing about it, won’t bring him back, either.
There’s nothing rational about death or loss. Or many writing fears for that matter. But we do the best we can with what our heads present us, don’t we?
Over to you
Have you thought of a magical book from childhood that holds a block ditching tip? Or did one of the 5 I shared here resonate?
I double-dog dare you to share your thoughts with the write 50 crew in the comments section below. Your comment enters you in a drawing for a free Ditch The Block game, your choice.
Block ditching resources:
A list of public libraries, a treasure trove of childhood classics
A playbook and game that challenges you to self-coach yourself through your writing blocks
Write 50’s Ditch The Block challenges