You gotta take something for that


Are you sniffling, groggy and lacking energy? Do you sit at the computer all day and just stare at the screen?

It may be a bad case of writer’s block.

What can you take to get past it, to get the mojo flowing again?

hard working author Anita Diamant

hard working author Anita Diamant

Plenty of writers have suggestions. I like this one from Hemingway, who said to stop writing in the middle of a good part, when the words are flowing, so you can just jump into that mode again the next day without losing momentum.

Charlie Jane Anders provides some fantastic, in-depth advice in this blog post, which may help you identify and overcome the source of your issues. For instance,

“6. You’re bored with all these characters, they won’t do anything.
You created these bold, vibrant characters, and now you’ve written dozens of pages… about them brushing their teeth and feeding their cats. …

The good news is, sometimes writing a few dozen pages of nothing much happening can be super valuable – you’re getting into the world, and you’re working out for yourself what these characters are about. It’s entirely possible that once you’ve done that, a conflict will present itself, or one minor character will suddenly start looking like your protagonist. Just be prepared to toss out all these pages after that happens. (As you probably will with almost everything in a first draft, anyway.)”

There’s also whether you BELIEVE in writer’s block. I’ve had the benefit of writing on deadline and writing nonfiction — so either the story is there or it isn’t, I’m not waiting for my imagination to kick in and provide the heart-racing climax. When I can’t produce a compelling lede in my first five minutes on the keyboard I just keep writing and eventually come back to it.

A wonderful writer friend told me the analogy of “islands and bridges” style writing rather than trying to sit down and pound out a story from beginning to end. It made perfect sense.

I always thought writer’s block was a fiction-writer’s thing. But then I met Anita Diamant, author of The Red Tent and Good Harbor. I was profiling her for my magazine and asked about her writing muse. Her answer surprised me:

“I don’t have a muse,” she said. “I have an ass-in-chair work ethic.”

She doesn’t seem to believe in writer’s block, I guess.


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