What To Do for Writer’s Block

All literary fiction writers have problems with productivity related to ability and individual writing strategies. Writer’s block is a common term but it really doesn’t define a specific problem or suggest a consistent or dependable way to solve and proceed. The symptoms can be devastating—staring at a blank screen or page jilted by inspiration with quashed creativity. Here are famous authors’ solutions that might just squiggle your own path, for better or worse, to recovery.

*Maya Angelou: “Writing is like any art or sport. Practice makes perfect. Inspiration will only come if you push yourself to keep putting pen to paper.”  *Neil Gaiman: “Put it [your writing] aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it.”  *Mark Twain: “Outline, outline, outline!”  In essence, break your “complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks,” and then start on the first one.  *Ernest Hemingway: “…  keep some inspiration in reserve. “Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day.” Let your subconscious work all the time. “But if you think about it  …  you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.”  *Hilary Mantel:  “… clear your mind …  because your mind is overwhelmed by … thoughts … that are crowding your brain. You need to create a space for your inspiration to fill.”  (For detail, see Nicole Bianchi)

You’ll have to judge which and how many strategies might work for you, but here are some thoughts on creativity and desire that may help.

So resolving “writer’s block” is more than just the need to plug in your nonfunctioning computer or routinely do hundreds of undisciplined “writing crunches” … or, for that matter, to stop thinking. Consider that inability to create may be a symptom of who you are as a writer and what level of accomplishment you’ve achieved. Are you writing for excellence in creating fiction story as an art form or are you writing to be published to convince others you are an author? And are you intensely dedicated to the life-long learning of writing literary fiction and storytelling, and analyzing (not copying) the great stories you admire that have lasted as art forms?

And think about the immediate. Are you objectively conscious of the daily effect your emotional and/or psychological states have on your productivity. If you can believe life’s minicrisies or drained physical or mental energy contribute to difficulty in generating innovative creativity, don’t be hard on yourself by blaming your troubles on a lack of ability and determination but accept that the individual, day to day process and success of creative writing is always in flux and will be influenced by your emotional state. To weather the inevitable breakdowns that seem to affect all of us, you might try this type of thinking.

Actually, finding a solution to loss of creative productive fiction that is personally satisfying and artistically accepted takes years to develop, like what a professional classic pianist must go through to practice superb technic and perfect performance to create individuality in interpretation and sound, and learn from extensive analysis of other artists how to generate an admirable career. So, as authors, we might respond to the often inevitable expected downtime in our creativity by savoring our “writer’s block” writing time to study these skills: writing of craft; developing clear effective prose; analyzing secrets of other writers; improving story structure and character-based dramatic plots, and always looking to other nonwriting personal-skills that require: concentration, mental and physical coordination, focus of attention on individual thinking and skill improvements, and that accumulatively produce synergistic success in reaching goals. It is true writers achieve success in what they do as well as recover from obstacles by delicate adjustments of who they are and with truthful self-awareness.

Make sense? Your comments would be appreciated. How do you respond to “writer’s block”? How do you use breakdown time resulting from loss of productive, creative storytelling?

Thanks for reading. William H. Coles


*Coles, a fiction writer: The Anatomy of a Wannabe Literary Fiction Writer

*Coles, author’s attitudes: Author’s Attitudes

*Nicole Bianchi on writer’s block: 5 Famous Authors’ Strategies for Conquering Writer’s Block

Thirty-four award-winning fiction stories
By William H. Coles

Suchins Escape
Illustration by Peter Healy for Short Story “Suchin’s Escape,” by William H. Coles

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