Dealing with Writer's Block

Author:
Publish date:

Q: Do you have any advice on overcoming writer's block? I am currently taking a course on this subject and wondered how professional writers deal with this common problem. —Jane Thomas

A: Writers have only three true enemies: time (or lack thereof), computer viruses and writer's block. Defeating the first two is easy—set a writing schedule and backup your work. But writer's block doesn't have a cut-and-dry solution. It's a chronic ailment that all writers deal with differently.

For some insight, I asked several prominent authors how they tackled this terrible disease:

"To overcome writer's block I try to imagine: What's the worst thing that can happen to my protagonist within the context of this story? Then I do it. Characters should have goals, and my job as the author is to make it difficult for them to reach those goals."—JA Konrath, author of Fuzzy Navel, the fifth novel in his Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels series.

"After I’m done feeling sorry for myself, I return to the literature. I first learned to write by reading, so I figure I can relearn to write by doing the same thing."—Matt Rothschild, author of Dumbfounded.

"I use fear to overcome it. I remind myself that my income is contingent on the pages I produce, and if I don't write pages I don't get paid—my mortgage doesn't get paid, my utilities get cut off and pretty soon in my mind I can see myself living in an abandoned truck in an old bathrobe. When the only thing standing between me and that fate is the next paragraph, it comes out pretty quickly."—Hollis Gillespie, syndicated columnist and author of Trailer Trashed.

As for me, defeating writer's block is all about persistence. When I'm stuck, I either find a good writing prompt and take a stab at it, or spend an hour coming up with 10 writing prompts of my own. These exercises give me a nice mental workout and, typically, end my writing slumps. And if those fail, I read. Nothing is more inspiring than taking in another writer's finest work.

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at WritersDig@fwpubs.com with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

Kaia Alderson: On Internal Roadblocks and Not Giving Up

Kaia Alderson: On Internal Roadblocks and Not Giving Up

Kaia Alderson discusses how she never gave up on her story, how she worked through internal doubts, and how research lead her out of romance and into historical fiction.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Seven New Courses, Writing Prompts, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce seven new courses, our Editorial Calendar, and more!

Crystal Wilkinson: On The Vulnerability of Memoir Writing

Crystal Wilkinson: On The Vulnerability of Memoir Writing

Kentucky’s Poet Laureate Crystal Wilkinson discusses how each project has its own process and the difference between writing fiction and her new memoir, Perfect Black.

From Script

Approaching Comedy from a Personal Perspective and Tapping into Your Unique Writer’s Voice (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by ScriptMag.com, interviews with masters of comedy, screenwriter Tim Long ('The Simpsons') and writer-director Dan Mazer (Borat Subsequent Movie) about their collaboration on their film 'The Exchange', and filmmaker Trent O’Donnell on his new film 'Ride the Eagle' co-written with actor Jake Johnson ('New Girl'). Plus, tips on how to tap into your unique voice and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Accepting Feedback on Your Writing

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Accepting Feedback on Your Writing

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not accepting feedback on your writing.

Writer's Digest Best Creativity Websites 2021

Writer's Digest Best Creativity Websites 2021

Here are the top creativity websites as identified in the 23rd Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.

Poetic Forms

Englyn Proest Dalgron: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the englyn proest dalgron, a Welsh quatrain form.

What Is a Palindrome in Writing?

What Is a Palindrome in Writing?

In this post, we look at what a palindrome is when it comes to writing, including several examples of palindromes.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Set a Trap

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Set a Trap

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, it's time to set a trap.