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Silences, When Writers Don't Write This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Tillie Olsen's Silences, When Writers Don't Write is an absolutely fabulous piece of writing. She completely and vividly describes, explains, and offers a few solutions to the extremely common, but not so popular problem: writer's block. She also mentions other factors that might cause a writer to stop writing.

In the first place, writing an essay, a story, or just about anything can be a very frustrating and dreadful task. If the writer experiences writer's block, it can turn into a never ending nightmare. Olsen makes it very clear that even the best authors are sometimes hit with a case of writer's block. She says, "The very great have known such silences - Thomas Hardy, Melville, Rimbaud, Gerard Manley Hopkins." She relates the problem to the average writer, which helps the writer feel s/he is not alone when suffering from writer's block.

Authors like Thomas Hardy experienced long and painful pauses in their writing. Hardy was very unfortunate, and stopped writing novels for thirty years. Although he did write poems, he was unable to express his talent in a novel. Hardy clearly had the ability to write fantastic novels, but he was unable to live up to his potential. About this silence he wrote: "Less and less shrink the visions then vast in me."

In addition to talking about writer's block, Olsen also mentions its different forms, and what factors may cause someone to stop writing, or never begin to write. She talks about the kind of circumstances that may be present in a person's life - including censorship, imprisonment, skin color, sex, age, illness, and improper education. Olsen gives examples of people who have suffered from these types of silences including Mark Twain, Isaac Babel, Oscar Wilde, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Eliot, Joyce Cary, Joseph Conrad, Emily Dickinson, and Tillie Olsen herself, who has also experienced a period of silence.

In the case of some writers, they are forced to stop writing because of the situation they're in. Both Isaac Babel and Oscar Wilde could not write because they were imprisoned. Olsen drives the point home that the world will never know what they could have accomplished or contributed to literature.

The silence that Olsen experienced was a type of silence mainly faced by women. She describes her ordeal best as she writes, "In the twenty years I bore and reared my children, usually had to work a job as well, the simplest circumstances for creation did not exist." When a highly creative person takes on more than s/he can handle, the result is a waste of talent. In order to write, Olsen needed to maintain a certain state of mind, which could not be achieved by living a hectic life.

I highly recommend that everyone read this book by Tillie Olsen. It is extremely interesting, informative, and very helpful, even if you haven't experienced writer's block. Also, Silence is very valuable because it introduces the writer to a different side of many authors. n




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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