Writer’s Block

Or how I was almost stumped by a birthday speech  

Sometimes people ask me about writer’s block, and how I deal with it. “With deadlines,” is my usual answer.  It may sound flippant, but in almost a decade of freelance writing, I’ve never experienced complete paralysis before a blank computer screen.  As a mompreneur with limited uninterrupted hours for work, I simply don’t have time to procrastinate.

I usually don't have time for Writer's Block!

I usually don’t have time for Writer’s Block!

When in doubt, I take my own best advice:

  • Start at the beginning
  • Lead with the most interesting tidbit or…
  • Set the scene with a person.

It’s always worked, and I’ve never missed a deadline. In fact, pressure seems to get my creative juices flowing. Except for recently – when they froze.

Of course, this wasn’t any ordinary assignment. It was the occasion of my parents (joint) 145 Birthday Party, and my mother asked me to give a short speech.  Since I am a professional writer, the pressure was on to come up with something articulate, engaging, and memorable.

The problem was, I didn’t know where to start.

The pressure was on to write a speech for my parent's 145th birthday party.

The pressure was on to write a speech for my parent’s 145th birthday party.

So, I did what any self-respecting writer would do. I turned to Dr. Google.  “How to write a birthday speech” turned up a few corny examples and plenty of practical advice on structure:

  • Open with a welcome.
  • Share a few amusing or insightful anecdotes about the guest of honour.
  • Close with a toast.

It seemed simple enough, but I was still drawing a blank…and time was running out.

I decided to Google my parents to see what turned up. That gave me a bit of material to work with, but for some reason I couldn’t stop thinking about all the funerals I’ve been to this year.

For some reason the upcoming party made me think about all the funerals I've attended this year.

For some reason the upcoming party made me think about all the funerals I’ve attended this year.


So that’s where I decided to start – and then the words began to flow:

I recently commented to a friend that I knew I had finally hit middle age because I’ve been going to more funerals than weddings this year. It makes you realize that not every couple is lucky enough to celebrate their 145 birthday together, so it’s wonderful to have everyone here to share this occasion.

Mom and Dad, we are all here because you are a very special couple.

Always elegant, mom is the artist, the social organizer, the domestic general, and the type of person who can make friends wherever she goes, despite – or maybe because of –  her very  direct style of communication .  

The quintessential academic, Dad says he was too scared to leave school for a job in the real world.  A true opera-lover and would-be orchestral conductor, he is smart enough to take advice on his wardrobe to follow orders around the kitchen, and he doesn’t mind being introduced as the artist’s husband.

I never really understood what dad did for a living – other than forcing poor university students to write essay exams – but after a Google search I discovered that he has published more than 30 books and more than 250 papers. He even has his own Wikipedia page. Some blogger calls him ‘the world’s greatest expert on the history of monetary theory and macroeconomics since the time of Adam Smith.’ Not bad for a kid from Tyne and Wear.  Even I was impressed. 

But although dad may influence economic policy from behind the scenes, it was mom who cornered then finance-minister Marc Lalonde at a garden party at the Govenor Genral’s house in Ottawa – using me as a human shield – to berate him about proposed changes to the tax laws regarding artists and their unsold inventory. I like to think that she single-handedly saved Canadian artists from an unfair economic burden.

Together, they are definitely a formidable pair and make a fantastic team.

And now that you are both officially septuagenarians you might think that you have reached old age. But, I am happy to inform you that the baby boomers have banned that concept. It has been re branded  and is now called the Creative Age – because apparently while the ‘mature’ brain loses it’s short-term memory, it gains a greater capacity for holistic thought. 

So today, I propose a toast to a truly creative couple who are loved and admired by many.

To a couple who have been loving and supportive parents to me, goalie grandparents-in-training to Natan – and the all-time best dog-parents a pooch could ever hope to have.  We wish you health, happiness, and lots of love for another 145 years.

Have you ever experienced writer’s block? How did you cure it?