Serving students and faculty since 1971

The Marian E. Wright Writing Center is excited to announce a new alumni presence on our blog. We’ve asked some alumni to write blog posts about their experiences in the Writing Center and what they’ve taken from their time here into their current lives.

If you are a UM-Flint alumnus and would like to write for our blog and share your experiences, please contact Jacob Blumner.

For our inaugural alumni post, I’d like to welcome Marianna Kilbourne.


The Muse, Leaking Brain Syndrome, and other Excuses of Why I Can’t Write


“Two things are difficult about writing a novel. Starting and finishing”—Bangambiki Habyarimana.


In my experience, writer’s block is something that happens in the beginning. Once I get rolling, I can’t stop until I am done with a fairly complete first draft. It’s rough, it needs revision, but the bulk of it gets spit out in one long and feverish session. The cartoon version of me during one of these sessions would have flames coming out of my eyes and smoke pouring out of my ears and the keyboard. That is what it feels like when I am in the (writing) zone, and I imagine this is what it would like. This crazed style of writing is a phenomenon probably due to two facts: 1.) The largest piece of work I’d written was roughly 20-25 pages long, and 2.) The writing was for a class, which meant I had a due date and I had started writing late enough to only have the option of writing nonstop. I have now learned, because I am writing something bigger, I have to stop at some point even though I am nowhere near a first draft. Which means I have to be able to get into that creative burst of writing mode a lot and pick up where I left off. But, this feels like I am constantly in that beginning phase of writing, with an initial case of writer’s block. Except now I am in the middle of the story and this is unfamiliar territory for me.


Recently, I decided to write a novel. No, that is not exactly true. Recently, I had to start writing a novel, because if I didn’t I thought my head would explode if I didn’t. This story inside me was burning to be told. When I got started, I had no problem writing for a few hours everyday. The words and ideas were coming out with the force and speed of an avalanche. Things have clearly iced over now, and my mind feels frozen. I also no longer have time in my schedule to write for a few hours every day, which is not helping the problem. Oh, and spoiler alert, if you thought this post was going to tell you how to beat writer’s block you will be disappointed. If you have suggestions for me, feel free to leave comments.


The hard part of this new learning experience is breaking up with the idea that I can have those bursts of creativity when I need them. I have always been able to count on this before. It was as if my muse was on call. She either has her cell phone on silent mode or keeps leaving it at home, because she doesn’t always answer these days. Hemingway said to let the pressure build, and think that’s a great way to describe what happened when I first started my novel. I also think this is what happened when I was writing papers for school or other short pieces. I am not one to brainstorm on paper. Most of the invention part of my process is internal, so when the ideas start to build pressure in my head, the writing comes. Right now I feel like I have slow leak, like a tire that runs over a nail. I need to find a way to patch up my brain’s slow leak, so the pressure can build again. That, or my muse needs to turn her ringer up.


A bit about Marianna Kilborne: I am both a recent and not-so-recent graduate from UM-Flint, with graduation dates spanning 20 years. My recent completion of the MAELL program helped me make a much needed career change, and I am now working as a communication specialist on the mortgage side of a large Michigan based bank. The time I spent as a writing tutor at UM-Flint was the most invaluable portion of my education. I got to work with and learn from some very brilliant people in the writing center. My views on writing changed, and so did my writing process and style. My favorite things to do are reading, writing, cooking, and hanging out with friends and family. I have also recently enjoyed watching my husband and two kids pull together to help out around the house a lot more (and secretly, I have been rejoicing every time they acknowledge they didn’t realize how much I actually did.) I just wish there was a way to explain to my dog why I am suddenly gone all the time.