Updated: Jul 18, 2020
Did you know you can turn anything into a story, whether fiction or nonfiction?
Absolutely any experience or any thought that pops into your head has that potential. Truly.
For my part, I’ve intensely debated writing about my experiences with online dating. Oh, the stories my heroine could tell.
The reason why I bring this up though has nothing to do with my experiences. It actually has everything to do with writer’s block, which can apparently be turned into a book as well.
Actual writer’s block. As in not being able to write.
See what I mean by “absolutely any experience or any thought” can be turned into a story?
To explain that concept further, take The Oklahoman article titled, “Creativity to the Letter: Meet the University Professor Who Turned Writing Letters of Recommendation Into a Humorous, Bestselling Novel.”
It’s both an entertaining and inspiring read – when you know how to read between the lines.
Here’s how it starts:
Writing constant letters of recommendation goes with the territory of being a university faculty member. Julie Schumacher, who teaches creative writing at the University of Minnesota, took that task to a new level: She made a novel from it.
“Dear Committee Members” is entirely made up of letters of recommendation written by Jason Fitger, a much put-upon professor of creative writing at the appropriately named Payne University. A bestseller upon its initial publication in 2014, it earned Schumacher the Thurber Prize for American Humor.
And, like so many novels, its initial impetus was writer’s block. Schumacher, who had previously written novels for young people, “got stuck on a novel for adults,” she said in an interview from her St. Paul home. “Structure has always been hard for me. I was teaching an undergraduate class, and I told students to try to pick a form, see if you can play with form in some way. They asked for an example. I kept thinking that I had just been writing all these letters of recommendation…”
Just like that, a writing exercise was born…
Just like that.
If you’re saying that it’s not that easy, well, sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. In this case, admittedly, it wasn’t.
It’s just that a writer with a creative flair was responsible for describing Schumacher’s eureka moment.
In actuality, the professor thought it would simply be “a sort of exercise I could impose on myself to get started, to stop thinking about cause and effect and plot and just work with a form.”
So she tried it out. And little by little, she “started to entertain” herself “with it.”
And why not when she was writing about “a jerk”? A professor who has to write letter of recommendation after letter of recommendation in the midst of a thankless job in cramped quarters, this main character apparently gets a little too honest about his subjects.
In the end, Schumacher was so entertained by her writer’s block-inspired “writing exercise” that she “brought him back for a sequel.”
So the next time you have some crazy writing idea, see if you can work with it. Maybe you can. Maybe you can’t it.
But you won’t know how far you’ll get until you try.