The Help Review

The Help
By: Kathryn Stockett

Paige’s Rating: (3) of 5
Recommended for: Historical Fiction Readers

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way.
Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk.

I saw the previews for this movie in the summer, when I was back visiting my family in America. My eyebrows raised as the trailer played in front of me and when it finished, my friend and I leaned in at the same time to say, “Looks good.” When I got back to Turkey, I was disappointed to find out that the movie would not come here until December, so I decided to legally purchase it when it came out on DVD in November. Right? Anyway, the movie was disappointing so when my friend handed me the book last week, I sighed and thought, “Well the book is always better than the movie right? So this must be okay.” And the verdict? The book is okay. It’s not bad like the film but it is not as good as it could have been.

I think the plot is good considering we have been down the 1960’s Mississippi dirt road many times before. Yet, the idea of maids producing a book about their life with the driving force of a white girl behind them is unique and Stockett actually makes it believable in the book. In addition, the author paints a much more dynamic and dangerous view of Jackson than was portrayed in the movie, with extra details and sub-plots. What would have made the overall plot better, however, would have been the development of some of the sub-plots which were introduced and then never developed, like Minny’s pregnancy. Also, some of the sub-plots were unnecessary or in my opinion, a bit ridiculous like the fact that Skeeter’s mother has cancer.

The characters are also done well. Stockett writes from the perspective of the three main characters and does a very good job of making their voices unique from one another. The relationship between the characters is okay, and that is one area that could have also been better. Skeeter and Aibileen grow together as they believe they are doing the right but dangerous thing of organizing the book, but you don’t see them actually have “a moment” where their friendship is apparent, and that is quite a bit of a letdown. In addition, Minny begins to care about the white woman she works for, Celia, but you never see Minny do anything to prove that. Instead the author uses internal dialogue to convey feelings poorly.

Even if you didn’t care much for the movie, you still may find the book a bit more interesting. At the worst, it’s a good rainy-day book to read when nothing else is available to you. It passes the time. But if you liked the movie, than I am sure you are going to love the book and enjoy the extras that didn’t make it to the big screen.

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Brida Review

By: Paulo Coelho

Paige’s Rating: (2) of 5
Recommended for: Spiritual- Fiction Readers


Brida, a young Irish girl, has long been interested in various aspects of magic but is searching for something more. Her search leads her to people of great wisdom. She meets a wise man who dwells in a forest, who teaches her to trust in the goodness of the world, and a woman who teaches her how to dance to the music of the world. As Brida seeks her destiny, she struggles to find a balance between her relationships and her desire to become a witch.

Lately, I feel as if I am in a real bad relationship with the books I am reading. It seems like there is a lot of hype about these books, and my heart quickens when they are described to me. “Oh yes, this one is a best-seller and this other one very smart and deep. Paige, you need to read them.” Wow, that sounds good, and so I can’t wait to meet these books. And while we should never judge a book by the cover, I see that these books have potential; they are attractive and I can dig them. But then, oh, then I read them and get to know them. It is somewhere around page 20 where I find that I am already bored with them but like all my past lovers, I stick it out in case something good does end up coming out of it. *sigh* Oh the hopeful masochist that I am.

I had a few friends, both American and Turkish, recommend this book to me. When I noticed that it was written by the same author of The Alchemist, which also came highly praised, I thought that it would be a good buy. While The Alchemist was good, Brida was barely redeemable.

The character of Brida is a young Irish girl, going to University in the 1980s. Brida begins that journey we all take in order to search for ourselves. Maybe it was due to the translation, but I felt that her character was unchanging from start to finish, even though the words in the book were trying desperately to convince me that she was in a great spiritual transition. In the end, the reader is told that Brida has this new-found knowledge of life and of herself, but when I looked at the actions in the book, I just wasn’t buying it because those actions wouldn’t have personally developed my spirituality.

So let’s talk about that, the actions in the storyline. There was action that occurred that moved the plot forward, but it was in a way that seemed detached from the progress of the character and naturally, to the reader. Let me give you an example from the book, without spoiling the plot too much. There were two love-making scenes that were to be pivotal in Brida’s journey toward spiritual understanding. Now, I have had some good sex in my day, but hardly anything so good that I hit a new level of enlightenment. So I get it, and yet I don’t. Consequently, I have had sex so bad, that it brought a new level of knowledge to me, the knowledge of dead fish whoppie, but I digress. In this way I think Coelho is trying to connect with his reader but failing miserably because the actions in which he chooses to show Brida’s spiritual journey aren’t likely to be the same actions the reader would take, as I stated early. It’s like a lover trying desperately to make you understand that he loves you, but he shows his love for you by making you pay for dinner. You get it and yet you don’t. It’s not bad action, but it’s just not normal actions that would prove the point.

Again, maybe this is due to the translation or maybe the context of these books is so deep that its true meaning is lost to… herm… people like me. Read it if you wish to read about a nice girl who becomes a woman through actions unrelated to the progress, but don’t expect to find your spiritual answer here. After all, real love and real answers comes from within. And that is what Coelho tried to convey ironically, without connecting to the reader.

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The Alchemist Review

The Alchemist
By: Paulo Coelho

Paige’s Rating: (3) of 5
Recommended for: Spiritual- Fiction Readers

This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom points Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find wordly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within.

Even being half-way around the world, I have heard the hype surrounding this book but have only been able to find it in Turkish, that is until last week. So being in a book store that has twelve different books in English and six of those by Paulo Coelho, I bought this one and Brida, which I will be writing a review about shortly. But this book seems to fall into the same category as: The Last Lecture and The Secret. People whisper and rave about this book and when you pick it up to read it, you have hope that this book will forever stick with you. And when you finish it, you simply go, “Huh.”

The character was nameless or at least 98% of the time regarded as “the boy,” and naturally this wasn’t coincidence: Coelho wants us to identify with the boy. The character seems young and inquisitive, which is why he was perfect to go on a physical and spiritual journey. He seemed to ask the right questions and find the answers easily.

The plot was that of a journey in search for “treasure.” The boy first found himself in Northern Africa for some time before making his way across the desert towards the pyramids. During the travel the characters whom he met on his journey all help him take the necessary steps forward. The Universe made sure that the boy can always continue forward. He does hit a few obstacles along the way, but it was still interesting to see if he would make it to his destination.

Naturally, everything at this point sounds pretty simple and that’s the truth. The book is very simplistic in its characters and plot. Even the writing takes on a sort of folktale-prose style which is generally short, simple sentences. So is the book incredibly boring because everything is so simple? Well, everything must be simple because it’s the meaning of the book that is so complex.

While reading this book, I felt that the theme of spiritual journey was nice, but the other life lessons were too much. The different characters who helped out the shepherd spoke in short but deep sentences about many Universal truths that couldn’t be processed back to back. Coelho mentioned having fear and faith, he mentioned beginners luck in finding your destiny, he mentioned destiny and following your path in life, he mentioned the signs in the Universe God readily shows us when we follow our path, he mentioned the nature of the human heart and emotions, he mentioned a Soul of the World that we all belong to and so on and so forth. All of these issues are pretty complex, but Coelho sort of breezed through them as if they were regular water-cooler talk. I found myself purposely re-reading some sections because I felt there was a deeper message that was being glazed over.

Overall, the book was good. Was it something that changed my mind and spirituality forever? No and in all honesty, I will probably have forgotten about this book in two years time. But is it good? Yes. If you sit down with a patient mind, I find the issues raised in this book are worth contemplating in your heart.

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Our Man in Havana Review

Our Man in Havana
By: Graham Greene

Paige’s Rating: (4) of 5
Recommended for: Satire- Fiction Readers

Our Man in Havana is an espionage thriller, a penetrating character study it tells of MI6’s man in Havana, Wormold, a former vacuum-cleaner salesman turned reluctant secret agent out of economic necessity. To keep his job, he files bogus reports based on Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare and dreams up military installations from vacuum-cleaner designs. Then his stories start coming disturbingly true.

What a fantastic read! The main character, Mr. Wormold, is a British citizen living in Cuba in the 1960’s. His wife has left him and so he is alone in raising a young daughter who is incredibly spoiled and spends her father’s money without knowing whether he has it or not. As a vacuum cleaner salesman, he really does not.

As a character, Wormold is great because he evokes a sense of pity even though you know his indifference makes him rather pathetic and you can’t help but understand why his clever wife left him. Milly is Wormold’s young daughter who is so innocent, you allow her to be irresponsible with her father’s money and heart. Greene does a fabulous job of creating supporting characters that have glaringly obvious flaws, but the reader loves them regardless.

The plot is also creative and comedic. Because Wodmold’s daughter uses his money with no regard, he is in a tight financial position when he is cornered in the men’s room by a man named Hawthorne. Hawthorne is a British spy and convinces Wormold to keep important tabs on the going-ons of Havana and send reports to Britain. Of course, Wormold is not only compensated for his work, but he is compensated for a team of additional spies who will help him. Wormold is not interested in playing spy, but being interested in the money, he creates a team of spies that work for him and conjures up dangerous missions that they take on. All is fine until, of course, Britain sends in some extra help and the spies that Wormold has created begin to show up dead in reality. From there, reality and fiction spiral out of control as Wormold tries to hang onto the illusion of his spy life while figuring out how his fantasy has turned into non-fiction.

The writing is wonderful, and Greene is not only great at creating unique characters and story lines, but he also infuses a lot of wit into the character’s dialogues. The result is a charming book with a subtle dark lesson: don’t take the easy way out!

I suggest this book to anyone who is looking for something that is entertaining and light.

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A review of Jorge Luis Borges – The Sonnets

Ye, whose aspirings court the Muse of lays
“Severest of those orders which belong
Distinct and separate to Delphic song”
Why shun the sonnet’s undulating maze?
Or why its name, boast of Petrarcan days,
Assume, its rules disown’d?–whom from the throng
The Muse selects, their ear the charm obeys
Of its full harmony:–they fear to wrong
The sonnet by adorning with a name
Of that distinguisht import, lays, though sweet,
Yet not in magic texture taught to meet
Of that so varied and peculiar frame.
O think, to vindicate its genuine praise
Those it becomes whose lyre a favoring impulse sways.
Capel Lofft

I’m going to hazard a guess and say that there are very few people who still enjoy the sonnet. I count myself among the few, the proud, the sonneteers. The form, which rose to popularity in medieval Italy and moved to Edmund Spenser’s Britain where it would meet perhaps its most successful vector, one William Shakespeare, began to fall out of vogue as the novel rose to prominence and poetry began to break the confines of form. When poets stopped caring about form, sonnets became a thing of the past. Never mind sestinas.

As a writer, Borges occupied himself with the notion of unreality and how it appeared in the lives of everyday people. This often manifested itself as some of the most memorable magic realism of his generation and produced works like Ficciones (1944) and El oro de los tigres (1972), books that have been widely translated throughout the world, some of them by Borges himself.

American readers have been enamored of Borges’ short fiction for decades, but lesser known is his poetry, much less his sonnets.

I found the Borges book on a whim; I was on a visit to the Windy City and looking for what to do in Chicago when I found a bookstore. I moseyed in and saw The Sonnets on a discounted shelf. When it comes to literature in Spanish, I usually opt for the original copies; it helps me maintain my speaking acumen and there is some merit in owning a work in the original language. However, it’s also difficult to parse things like poetry, especially when I’m out of practice. This book is a dual-language edition, offering the poems in their original Spanish and translations by a team of some of the best Borges translators on the facing page. This sold me, so I walked out of the store, flicked open the book and read this:

On a certain street there is a certain door
Shut with its bell and its exact address
And with a flavor of lost Paradise,
which in the early evening I can never
open to enter. The day’s work at its end,
a voice I waited for would wait for me
there in the dissolution of every day
and in the stillness of the beloved night.
Those things are no more. This is my fate:
The blurry hours, impure memories,
Habitual abuse of literature
And at the edge my yet to be tasted death.
That stone is all I want. All I request
Are the two abstract dates and nothingness.

From that moment on, I was captivated. Borges writes his poems with a delicacy and gravity. Each one is like an episode in a sad cartoon that you are tricked into believing is happy until you realize its real sentiment.

The poetry grabs you, stops you in your tracks and immediately asks you to question the world around you. Sonnets about dreams, death, sorrow and family would be downers if they weren’t so musical – this is where the original language comes in handy.

If you haven’t availed yourself of the Poetry of Borges, this is a great introduction.

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A Hard Case

Ever since the first monk cobbled together a series of wax tablets into a portable collection of reading material, books have played an invaluable role in the development of mankind. Movable type, scrolls and leaflets, and the eventual development and dissemination of bound editions to the masses all mark the ways in which the printed word has moved humanity forward.

Despite this, people seem to think that recent innovations in e-reading technology will somehow kill off a cultural artifact that’s been around for thousands of years. I’d hate to break it to the starry-eyed technologists and futurists, but five years of increased digital sales is nothing compared to two thousand years of book production.

True, the publishing industry as we know it is changing. The traditional model of book-buying has been updated for a more mobile, technologically equipped society. Ardent readers get much more value out of being able to access a library via their iPad, Kindle, smartphone or any of the other myriad devices capable of acquiring and presenting books to consumers. What few advocates for the “future” of reading fail to acknowledge is that people are still buying books: used books, paperbacks, and hardcovers. The ascendance of technology isn’t so much cannibalizing hard copy print as much as it is supplementing it.

Kindle owners are quick to laud the device’s ability to pull a high-profile book, say Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, or Chuck Palahniuk’s Damned, out of the ether and into their device for immediate reading, and for less than the cost of the actual copy. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a great application of tech to readers who can’t be bothered to wait until they get to some bookseller to shell out dough and read a novel. This isn’t an indication of the decline of physical books; it’s simply the type of world we are accustomed to.

Last month I attended a book reading and while I was there guess what I did? I bought a book! You know what I did after that? I got it signed! I know it’s crazy for some people to imagine, but there is still a real and valuable place for books.

The upside is that by all accounts, people seem to be reading more. Between the unilaterally low prices of eBooks compared to hardbacks, the proliferating of web coupons driving the price down further and the manifold distribution channels that exist with Amazon, Google, Barnes & Noble, and every retailer ever, technology has made it easier than ever for people to read, and you definitely can’t knock that.

The main benefits of eBooks are in their portability and price. But to say that eBooks are driving hardcover books to extinction is not only shortsighted in both directions, it also implies that the only value/pleasure in books comes from reading. People still collect books. First editions are still valuable to those collectors. A few people with foresight realize that in ten years a physical copy of a book is going to be worth more than a 13,421kb file on an archaic Nook. eBooks are super convenient, but ultimately immaterial.

Coincidentally, it may be that sense of immateriality that drives continued physical book sales. Let’s look at another popular media: music. The rise of the MP3 considerably lowered the price of music and paved the way for online megastores like iTunes and devices like iPods to hold court over music. But 10 years after Napster dismantled the music industry as we know it, we’re still buying CDs. Hell, we’re still buying vinyl albums because they are the exact opposite of MP3s: the ethereal, intangible, yet convenient digital format. Vinyl albums are giant, bold and can be held in your hands. Much like a hardcover book. And for my part, I can guarantee they’re not going anywhere.

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Reading Lolita in Tehran Review

Reading Lolita in Tehran
By: Azar Nafisi

Paige’s Rating: (1) of 5
Recommended for: History- Non-Fiction Readers

Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran and fundamentalists seized hold of the universities, the girls in Azar Nafisi’s living room risked removing their veils and immersed themselves in the worlds of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. 

I really love literature as well as culture, so when I saw this book just hanging out on the shelf of a friend, I slipped it into my bag only to later say, “By the way, I grabbed a book to read.” I was excited for this one, but it ended up being a big let-down.

Nafisi, who was a college literature professor, begins the book by attempting to give the reader an image of the young student women who came to her house to secretly study literature, and attempts to show the reader how these women held quite different in religious, political and even social views. However, I found that Nafisi’s imagery got lost in other tangents and so the students instead seemed indistinguishable to me.

But the reason I really wanted to read the book was because I wanted a glimpse into Iran during and after the revolution. Yet even these events are very disjointed as Nafisi jumped from the present regime to flashback into the past and even sometimes flashes forward into a different time in her flashbacks. In what could have been a wonderful opportunity to highlight the Iranian Revolution and the effects it had on university life, instead became a jumbled time line of protest events, problematic students, bombings and reading in her living room.

At least the author gives us a plot that is interesting to read about, even if we are a bit lost and uninterested, right? No, not so much. I found myself asking what the plot was exactly. While Nafisi does share some stories of her students, the book essentially has two plots: one in which she clearly boasts about her knowledge of Western Literature, and one in which she laments about the difficulties arising from living in Iran with such a modern mind. Both these underlying, and yet perhaps they are the main, plots fail the reader. Nafisi talks about the books studied in her classes and expects the reader to have a working academic knowledge of them as well. Some of her analysis of the literature seems to be too deep and complex for the purpose it is serving in the novel, which is… well I think it was supposed to be to show a connection between Western Literature and Iranian life. And so with the Western Literature being taught to the readers, some refuge for the reader might be taken in the comparison to Iranian life. But the author again doesn’t describe this well and when she does, Nafisi is continual writing of herself and the hardships she faces with teaching narrow-minded students and the problems of being an independent woman in a male-dominated society. Her tone is one that is so whiney and egocentric, that I really wanted to give up on reading the book.

This book. The characters are basically faceless Iranian women who have stories to share but none of those stories are as important as the incessant crying of the author’s inability to save her faceless students mentally and physically from an oppressive regime. Instead, the author focuses on drawing out our pity for her situation and yet our awe in her ability to know so much about a single piece of literature. All of this is written in time that jumps forward and backward. Reading Lolita in Tehran is probably about as painful as actually reading Lolita in Tehran. My advice is skip it, really.

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Last Train to Istanbul Review

Last Train to Istanbul
By: Ayse Kulin

Paige’s Rating: (3) of 5
Recommended for: History Readers

When Selva falls in love with Rafael, a young Jewish man, their families are against their marriage and disown them. Together they go to live in France, but happiness eludes them there too. With the advent of the Second World War they get caught up in Hitler’s web of terror. At the same time Turkey is desperately trying to avoid being drawn in to the war, walking the tightrope between the Axis and the Allies very carefully. 

This book came highly recommended to me, and I had to admit that the history of WWII and Turkey’s neutrality seemed interesting, along with the drama of Nazi Germany. I was excited to read the book for the plot.

To be honest, the plot was good in theory. While the plot moves between Turkey, Egypt, France and Germany, the primary plot is between Paris and Istanbul and between the two sisters: Selva who has been disowned for marrying a Jewish man that she loves and now lives in France, and Sabiha who has married a Turkish diplomat and the marriage has chilled. Sabiha struggles with relationships between her husband, her daughter, and even her doctor who believes she is depressed. She is concerned greatly about her younger sister who is in France. Meanwhile, Selva is more of a fighter, struggling to not only save her family from the Nazi’s but other Jews as well. Sabiha’s story allows for the reader to see the diplomatic difficulties Turkey faced at the time of being a new and neutral republic. Selva’s story paints a more terrifying story of the Nazis invading France and beginning the round up of Jews, regardless of the nationality they held. The involvement of Turkey is fresh and interesting, something not often mentioned in the history books.

However, I found the writing completely fragmented and the ideas choppy. I know that the original story was written in Turkish, and so I can’t say if the fault lies with the author or the translator. Some of the scenes in the book seem a bit dry or cold. Other scenes seem a bit hurried, while yet others seem a bit drawn out. It was quite the mix of voice and it didn’t translate well at all.

On top of that, the editing job was disastrous. I couldn’t believe that the editor missed so many simple mistakes. On more than one occasion, the translator wrote “of” when it should have been “off.” These basic mistakes were like nails on a chalk board while reading and I felt that the thanks Kulin gave the editors at the end of the book was really undue.

So overall, I had to give the book a three. The plot had a lot of potential and was definitely interesting and creative. However, the voice given to the plot through the translation lacked a lot of continuity and emotion. Therefore, it was a bit difficult to read.

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The Year of Living Biblically Review

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
By: A.J. Jacobs

Paige’s Rating: (4) of 5
Recommended for: Humor and Spirituality

What would it require for a person to live all the commandments of the Bible for an entire year? That is the question that animates this hilarious, quixotic, thought-provoking memoir from Jacobs. He didn’t just keep the Bible’s better-known moral laws, but also the obscure and unfathomable ones: not mixing wool with linen in his clothing; calling the days of the week by their ordinal numbers to avoid voicing the names of pagan gods; trying his hand at a 10-string harp; growing a ZZ Top beard; eating crickets; and paying the babysitter in cash at the end of each work day.

I was exhausted. I had decided to not sleep the night before leaving North Dakota to head back to Istanbul and it was somewhere near 22 hours of being awake that I headed to one of the many bookstores in JFK to keep myself awake. And of course, marvel the luxury of so many English language books. After spending ten minutes browsing the books, reading back covers, and looking for nothing in particular, the store clerk approached me and asked if he could help me or recommend something to me. He handed me this book, and I dove right in.

This book is really entertaining. Jacobs does a great job at explaining the laws, commandments and suggestions in the Bible (some I have never even heard of) and the groups of Christianity or Judaism who still follow them. He then gets the groups’ interpretation of the law and justifications for following some of the more bizarre laws i.e.: not wearing mixed fabric clothing or sitting where a menstruating woman has. Jacobs follows these rules himself, and in turn, explains how he felt and what, if anything, he got from following the law. In addition, he comes across life situations that remind him of Biblical laws, and tries to apply ancient rules to today’s society. The result is generally hysterical and historical.

The book is sometimes very humorous and at other times serious and thought-provoking. I found that in this way, the book was very balanced and never too light-hearted or too serious.

The author never comes across as holy or someone who is bent on trying to convince others that God exists and we must follow His word to a tee. Rather, Jacobs is agnostic and is trying to sort through the rules in order to better understand religion and how it connects and benefits some people. As a man in search of understanding and knowledge, he never becomes preachy and that in and of itself is like a breath of fresh air.

I really recommend this book to anyone who is spiritual. The book itself is funny, and yet very enlightening. I learned some things that I had never known before and it was nice to look at the Bible objectively and see how vast and different religion is in America.

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Focusing on your own writer’s block

I was about to begin by writing, “we’ve all had writers block at one time or another,” and then I thought better. Besides being bad writing, reason enough to start over, that sentence presupposes that writer’s block is not supremely personal, a solitary experience that can’t be made relevant to any other’s malady. Anxiety attacks are likely a first cousin if not a sibling to that invisible barrier between the act of writing and the writer’s own psyche, and successfully grappling with one disorder can offer parallels in overcoming another.

That awful feeling of intense, yet vague dread, frequently with physical symptoms, quickly becomes self-perpetuating for either writer’s block or anxiety. When your work or studies depend upon your ability to produce written text, such as newspaper reporters or students attending an online university, this potentially debilitating disorder can spell disaster

As a college student in my mid-twenties, I began experiencing frequent, acute anxiety attacks. I was relatively happy, pursuing a bachelor’s degree and working in a job I enjoyed and had no more troubles than most, and in fact, relatively speaking, I had fewer problems than many. Again, none of that mattered to my unwelcomed guest.

Natures of the beasts

While anxiety and writer’s block have many similarities, knowing the features of these conditions that don’t overlap is instructive when considering ways to rise above either. Anxiety attacks stem from free-floating, often irrational fears that commonly defy attempts to articulate by a person experiencing symptoms. Writer’s block, on the other hand, is believed to stem from the ill effects of some inner critic developed from external sources from the person’s formative experiences. What is important to note, though, is the shared difficulty in both instances for the sufferer – and that’s truly an accurate term for anyone who has experienced either or both – of not being able to identify any one source of the problem. The good news is that overcoming either writer’s block or anxiety attacks don’t necessarily rely on knowing that source.

Turn and face the problem

For over a year, I would suddenly feel the onset of an attack. With no discernible trigger, I could feel the tingling announcing hyperventilation. At times, limbs would become weighty to the point I questioned their ability to function. Not surprisingly, I found that my schoolwork was becoming increasingly difficult to accomplish my written work. Quite by accident, though, I stumbled upon my own relief for both issues.

One morning, that familiar dread began again. In the past, my own fears fueled each attack, and presumably, every subsequent one. This time, however, my writer’s curiosity began to concentrate on each symptom. Over time, focusing on my anxiety with interest rather than distress had an unexpected, yet noticeable effect. By embracing the symptoms, my attacks became less frequent, less intense and then finally extinguished. I applied a similar bend to my writing block—again spurred on by that wonder of intrigue I suspect is fairly common among all writers.

I’ve since found articles that echo my own actions, but I’ll claim my own actions as independent at the time. Virtually unable to write my school papers at the time, I began simply journaling my own writer’s block. From free association to a stream of consciousness—I wrote, and I wrote. I wrote so much about my own writer’s block that I soon began to stray in my focus–to my coursework. Call it a trick, but the more I wrote about my writer’s block, the less frequently it occurred. While it became a standard pre-writing exercise to journal my block, after a few weeks my practice evolved into merely recalling the last time I experienced writer’s block, after which I wrote my assignments without fail.

Exorcising your doubts

Just as fear-based disorders are very personal, they all share the unwelcomed pairing of you and your symptoms. Trying to ignore or distance yourself from writer’s block tends to only stoke the problem. Using your skills as a writer, your innate wonder that makes you believe you have something worth saying in words, and your willingness to face your problem makes for a pretty potent remedy. Journaling about your writing blog may not work for everyone, but it’s a proactive means of taking charge of your issue.

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