Yes, it can be frustrating, difficult, and extremely exhausting to cultivate a wonderful piece of writing. This is something that all writers deal with eventually. But not to worry, because along with the countless cups of coffee, the cursing, and the discouraging writer’s block, it is all just a normal part of the writing process.
After hours, days, or even weeks of trying to polish that last thought to your satisfaction, you know it was worth the struggle when you look over your finished work with a wide smile and an excess of pride.
Many have grown up reading Robert Munsch’s short stories as children. Munsch, 66, is an American-born Canadian author who currently lives in the city of Guelph, Ont. A member of the Order of Canada since 1999, he has published over 47 children’s books and sold more than 18 million copies across North America.
“I have over 200 unpublished stories that I am working on,” he said. Among his most acclaimed books are The Paperbag Princess and Love You Forever. In an interview with The Concordian, the eccentric and beloved author shared details about his life in storytelling and offered young writers advice on the art of writing.
As an elementary student, Munsch almost failed grades one to five. In fact, he claims to have never learned how to spell properly and graduated from the eighth grade still counting on his fingers to do simple addition. He was generally “not a resounding academic success,” in his words.
He began writing poetry in elementary school, which sparked his interest in literature. In high school, he did not get along with anybody and after seven years of studying to be a Jesuit priest, he decided that it was not his calling. On the topic of post-secondary education, Munsch said, “I liked university better than any other schooling. I think it was because I was interested in what I was learning and had finally taken responsibility for my education.”
Every successful writer begins small. Munsch recalls how difficult it was to get published. “I never have had an agent and I sent stories to nine different publishers before one said yes,” he said. In 2008, Munsch suffered a stroke that affected his ability to speak in normal sentences. Over the years, he has slowly recovered and can now do public readings again. His writing career has however been put on hold until a full recovery.
I asked Munsch when he is at his happiest and he replied, “When I am with my family or with my dogs on long walks in the country.” When asked what a writer’s greatest enemy is, Munsch answered, “Trying to find an agent or publisher!” He added that the most important skill needed as a writer is perseverance and a willingness to accept criticism. Criticism is key to improving your work and unfortunately, a lot of people who begin writing quit halfway through because they cannot accept criticism and eventually give up. And this skill is what draws a clear line between a person who is insecure
about writing and an author.
How do I become an author? What steps do I take? Apart from practice, perseverance, and faith, there is no specific formula. If you take a look at different authors throughout history, they did not all climb the ladder to success the exact same way. To write a successful piece of literature, Munsch said to “write about something you love, something you feel strongly about or something you know about.” This makes all the difference in the delivery of the piece; the higher the
interest level of the writer, the more effort, care, and love is put into the writing.
What do you want to get accomplished through your writing? This should be thought of before beginning something because it helps inspire ideas and acts as a base to the story. Now comes writer’s block. Possibly the most frustrating part of a writer’s process, it feels as though it constantly lurks near your writing desk, but it is nothing discipline and diligence can’t take care of. Create an outline and get your thoughts on paper, even if they do not make sense at the time.
To help his writer’s block, Munsch makes up random unrelated stories on the spot and then his ideas expand and he gets inspired from the original material. To those interested in children’s literature, Munsch shared some more of his insight on this specific target audience. “Kids are so new. They’re so open-ended. I can look at a kid and wonder what they’ll be. ”The job of children is to be professionally appealing to adults. That’s how they get what they need,” he said.
After asking Munsch what aspiring writers should do to improve and maintain their writing and literacy skills, he provided wise and valuable feedback. “Keep on writing. Write a diary, write short stories. You don’t learn to swim by reading about it and you don’t learn to write that way either. If you want to learn how to write, write a lot and you will get better at it,” he explained.
Three golden rules to beating writer’s block
1. Take a break when writing, and have a glass of water to clear the mind.
2. Get inspired by everyday activities. When you are not working on a piece, carry around a camera or notebook to document anything that may catch your interest.
3. Seek help and inspiration from a friend or family member. An outside perspective can spark a great idea.