Books

FRIDAY FIVE: Five Famous Authors on Writer’s Block

It happens to most of us

Have you ever had a writer’s block? Ever experienced your thoughts, your imagination going blank? Read what these famous writer’s have to say about the most common disease among the writers called the writer’s block.

“I step away from the computer and swim. I really wish someone had told me earlier that there’s a relationship between writing and exercise. Writing involves you being completely, revoltingly sedentary while your brain works overtime. But when you exercise, it’s the complete reverse – you more or less become brain dead while your body works like a bastard not to drown/collapse on the treadmill/die. Then after I exercise, I always come back to my laptop and it’s like I’m seeing the story for the first time. I know what I need to do. It’s almost Biblical, like scales falling off my eyes or something.” ―  Benjamin Law

“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.” ― Hilary Mantel

“Writer’s block…a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumber’s block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day?
The fact is that writing is hard work, and sometimes you don’t want to do it, and you can’t think of what to write next, and you’re fed up with the whole damn business. Do you think plumbers don’t feel like that about their work from time to time? Of course there will be days when the stuff is not flowing freely. What you do then is MAKE IT UP. I like the reply of the composer Shostakovich to a student who complained that he couldn’t find a theme for his second movement. “Never mind the theme! Just write the movement!” he said.
Writer’s block is a condition that affects amateurs and people who aren’t serious about writing. So is the opposite, namely inspiration, which amateurs are also very fond of. Putting it another way: a professional writer is someone who writes just as well when they’re not inspired as when they are.” ― Philip Pullman
“Suggestions? Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you’ll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are. And you do it all one word at a time.” –Neil Gaiman
“I encourage my students at times like these to get one page of anything written, three hundred words of memories or dreams or stream of consciousness on how much they hate writing — just for the hell of it, just to keep their fingers from becoming too arthritic, just because they have made a commitment to try to write three hundred words every day. Then, on bad days and weeks, let things go at that… Your unconscious can’t work when you are breathing down its neck. You’ll sit there going, ‘Are you done in there yet, are you done in there yet?’ But it is trying to tell you nicely, ‘Shut up and go away.’” — Anne Lamott
 
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15 thoughts on “FRIDAY FIVE: Five Famous Authors on Writer’s Block”

  1. The exercise remedy works for me. I just wish it weren’t so specific a form–it’s in the middle of summer in the desert and I really really really need to hike Mt. Wasson!

    Maybe it’s time to take Pullman’s advice and just suck it up.

    Like

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