About Writer’s Block and Ways to Deal With It

How do you tackle writers block?

I don’t believe in writer’s block. If there’s a problem with getting words on the page, it needs to be investigated. I think that the act of naming it as this thing called ‘writer’s block’ actually exacerbates the problem and makes the writer feel powerless and the issue insurmountable.

What’s really going on? Lack of confidence? (Most likely). . . .Lack of informed constructive feedback? Lack of commitment or patience? Does the writer read books in their chosen genre, which is creative writing 101? And so on.

—From an interview,“Bernardine Evaristo on the Illusion of Writer’s Block,” on lithub. com.
Frank Deford, the great Sports Illustrated writer, tried to help Mark Kram, another SI writer, deal with his writer’s block:

I used to give him advice. “I’d say, ‘You know, Mark, you’re like one of those pitchers who can throw a hundred miles an hour, but you have to aim every pitch. Don’t always aim. Sometimes just throw the sonuvabitch.’”
As an editor, I worked with lots of writers and the worst case of writer’s block involved one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. When we hired him at The Washingtonian, he had come from the museum world. He had a great education and interesting mind and he got off to a promising start. After about a year he began to freeze up and miss deadlines. We both knew this couldn’t go on.

Then one afternoon he came in, looking happy, and said, “Jack, we’ve figured it out. I’ve been seeing a psychiatrist. He says it’s either fear of success or fear of failure.”
As a writer, when I had trouble getting started my approach was to keep the keys moving even if I knew I was writing the equivalent of “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back.” Keeping the fingers moving seemed to help get things started in the brain. Write bad and then keep trying to make it better.


  1. Barnard Collier says

    Dear Jack,

    I have suggested to some writers a way to battle a block that has been often successful:

    “Can you write something clear and understandable specifically for your grandchildren, who may be yet unborn?”

    This exercise for a true writer cuts through the daily clutches of fear and inertia that dominate the life of most blocked writers. To do well, one must make oneself un-mistakenly understood by beings of a time you may not live to see. To ace this exercise requires some sharp and profound thinking and the taking of nothing for granted.

    When you get back to writing in actual time, your thinking and your words will be keener and your insights deeper.

    As for editors:

    “Blocked” writers rarely forget how to write, but they do forget why. They need incentive.

    Dr. Samuel Johnson wrote that only a blockhead wrote except for money, and those who support his opinion are accused of “dancing only to the tinkle of coins” by blockheads who feel the philosophical urge to write for no pay.

    In any event, the appearance of a stack of Ben Franklins has been proven to pulverize many writers’ blocks on both sides of the issue.

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