“I have to work on my history essay,” my son announces.

“Isn’t that due tomorrow?” I ask.

“Yes. But it won’t take long.” To me (a writing teacher), writing an essay seems like something that might take some time. This particular essay involves a bit of research in the gathering of sources, and while it’s not a lengthy piece, this particular teacher is a stickler, to say the least.

“What should my thesis be?” he asks me from the other room, as if I know the assignment and the points he will make. I think about how much easier it would be if he would venture into the kitchen where I am preparing dinner so we could discuss without yelling back and forth. And since I have been struggling with my own writer’s block, I am not feeling particularly adept to be giving advice on how to start writing.

“Think about the points are you going to make,” I say. When pressed, yes, I can hold a writing conference from a different room. “Those need to be part of your thesis. But you probably want to do your research first.”

“I’ll just start writing,” he declares, dismissing any input I might offer at this point in the process. Fine then. He did ask for my help, after all. I swallow hard as the teacher in me wells up, desperately wanting to comment about the research piece.

I go about my business making dinner and finishing up some evening chores. After about half an hour, I start to the basement to tend to the laundry. My son is staring off into space. “You need to focus or you’ll never get that done,” I say in passing.

“Mom…!” he says in his favorite tone of teenage incredulity. “I’m working on it!” He springs from the couch, iPad in hand, and starts following me. “You have to see this….” But I am already down the stairs in the laundry. “Mom, look.” He holds the iPad out for me to see, and three solid paragraphs fill the screen. I am impressed. “See?” he says. “I’ve got this.”

It isn’t long before he is finished, and he brings me the essay to read. Aside from some repetition in two of his points, which I mention, it’s not bad. We work on the thesis, and he returns to the living room to type and reformat. In a few minutes, he says, “I need help with my citations.”

After a brief discussion of whether or not we can work from the same room, we decide he needs the computer, and I need to cook dinner. So, from the kitchen I say, “You’re going to write the author’s last name followed by a comma, then the first name, period….”

“Mom!” my daughter interrupts. “You have that memorized?? That’s so wrong!” Maybe. But since I use it often—as in daily—the memorization came as a side effect.

“Hey Mom! My friend hasn’t even started his paper yet. He’s hoping for a snow day tomorrow!” C laughs.

“Hmm. He does know we had a snow day today, right? Is he planning to write the essay?”

“Who knows,” C says. “But mine’s done!” He pauses for a minute. “I just need a title. What should my title be?”

He struggled with the title longer than he did on writing the entire essay. Which just goes to show, sometimes the easy things can trip us up. Sometimes, we get caught up in the little things in life and end up with writer’s block. As for his friend? He’s still working on the essay. I think he’s stuck on the first sentence.



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