DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a phobia of writing. I have a million and one ideas in my head, but I am afraid to put them on paper because of the potential grammatical errors. For example, writing a three-paragraph letter normally should take about 30 minutes. It will take me about an hour.
I would like to overcome my fear of writing. Can you offer some advice? -- Writer's Block, Queens, N.Y.
DEAR WRITER'S BLOCK: I actually think you are suffering from a tremendous fear of inadequacy more than writer's block, which occurs when your brain freezes and no thoughts come forth.
The best way to gain confidence in your writing ability is to enroll in classes that will support you. Take a basic grammar course and build a strong vocabulary, step by step. Then take a series of writing classes, starting with the simplest class you can find. Your goal is not to challenge yourself yet but to learn the fundamentals. If you can afford it, find a tutor who will work with you one-on-one to refine your skills.
By all means, go to the library and check out books on language use. Study them daily so that you immerse yourself in language building. If you remain dedicated to learning, with the proper support and commitment, you will improve your ability.
DEAR HARRIETTE: A high school friend and I had a falling-out recently. It's pretty obvious that the friendship is now over. She unfriended me on Facebook without provocation weeks after we'd actually had any sort of conversation. We're in the same group of friends, though. Chances are that we'll still have to see each other and that other friends will notice the tension, since we used to be pretty close.
How can I explain the situation to our fellow friends if they ask to avoid as much awkwardness as possible? --Flummoxed, Laredo, Texas
DEAR FLUMMOXED: I wouldn't rush to report that you and this former friend have parted ways. Wait until it naturally comes up. You will only ignite more interest in your fractured relationship if you bring everyone into it.
If and when your friends ask about the breakup, do your best to stay positive, and keep the details to a minimum. Acknowledge that you two have parted ways but that you still care about her.
You could ask your friends to be sensitive to the fact that you are on the outs. Ask them to avoid putting the two of you directly together in social settings whenever possible.
That said, I think you should prepare yourself to see this former friend and behave cordially. You might even want to apologize to her for your part in the falling-out that ended the friendship. It doesn't matter if she was at fault, too. I'm sure you are sorry your close relationship is over.