Episode 54: Killing Writer’s Block


The image has become mythology: the compellingly artistic writer with deep thoughts about the world, life, and prairies is crippled by the debilitating inability to put those illuminating nuggets on paper. The dreaded writer’s block has come, and woe is spread generally all around.

To that I say, “Hogwash” (if anyone really knows what that means). It’s easy to blame this dreaded malady and stare at the blinking cursor, but it’s not so easy to examine the cause and root it out.

Consider this an anti-writer’s-block boot camp.

Toss the term: Although this is purely psychological, get rid of the term writer’s block. It has become a comfort food, the Cherry Garcia ice cream of the author world. Can’t write? Blame that term which we shall not say again. Missed your deadline? Ditto. Ruts are hard to escape, but taking that unspeakable term out of play is a good start.

Check your expectations: What do you want from your writing? Most of my struggles in the past, when trying to make something ooze out onto the computer screen, had to do with expectations. I wanted my prose to be perfect the first time; I wanted to sell it last week; and I wanted to star in my own cheesy book trailer. When that didn’t happen immediately, my fingers froze.

Fast forward to now. I write first drafts knowing they’ll be awful; I know it’ll take time to get my work sold (mostly); and I still want to star in my own cheesy book trailer. The point is that expectations cause many writers to mentally give up. Write like you, and expect the first draft to need massive reconstructive surgery.

Switch gears without regret: If the only thing getting done during your “writing time” on a particular project is Twitter and Facebook, try something else. Dig out that plot idea you had in high school or that fantasy world map you doodled on a napkin or that blog post you’ve meant to work up. Slog through that for a few hours and just get words down. You may never use any of it, but don’t feel bad about needing something different. Writing anything is the point—even what you can’t keep.

Look for the holes: There’s a sixth sense that goes with writing: knowing when there are plot holes and other road hazards (which is admittedly not as cool as ESP or sensing electrical currents). As an editor, I get paid to make them obvious and/or disappear, but your own writer’s sense can manifest itself by not being able to go forward. When you hit the wall, turn around and see if the path you’ve taken is problematic. Rewriting is writing, too.

The point is to write on purpose—something, anything. Tell yourself that there’s no such thing as [that term we shall not mention] and then keep your fingers moving.

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One thought on “Episode 54: Killing Writer’s Block

  1. I have always found that if you make an outline of what you want to write before sitting down to write you will avoid writers block. I suppose though that some people don’t write that way as they’d rather have more of a creative flow. Personally I think I can be more creative when I know where I am going before I start. I can take detours along the route but I still end up where I want to be.

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