Guest Blogger · Writing Tips

#MondayBlogs: Goodreads asks: How do you deal with writer’s block?


Today’s guest post on #MondayBlogs is brought to you by author, Jeffrey Allen Mays. I had the honor of getting to know him after AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. signed his debut novel, The Former Hero, and I encourage everyone to check out his website as well! After all, this energizing post was originally shared on there, and his insightful encouragement revolves around a topic all authors shudder at – writer’s block. Hopefully, after this post, writer’s block will become a thing of the past.

Goodreads asks: How do you deal with writer’s block?

Goodreads recently asked me to write a response to this question: How do you deal with Writer’s Block? Here’s what I said.WritersBlock21

We need to ask, What is ‘writer’s block?’ And we should be clear, it is not a clinical condition the way it sounds.

Swimmer’s Ear. Tennis Elbow. Tourette Syndrome. Erectile Dysfunction. Writer’s Block.

So-called ‘Writer’s Block’ is a state of mind in which a writer’s brain is not being particularly imaginative. For mere mortals, I think it is fairly common. Quotes you see on Facebook (at least, I have seen) to the effect that for ‘real’ writers there’s no such thing  as Writer’s Block are certainly annoying, but more to the point, they are just an expression of arrogance coming from one who apparently has a lot of natural activity in the creative part of the brain. Good for them. But even Hemingway lost it toward the end of this career after having the ability to write great stuff seemingly effortlessly, and then wax philosophic about it.

So I say, let’s take Writer’s Block down a few notches. Don’t resort to pharmaceuticals, and don’t define yourself by it.

When I can’t seem to get the motor running, I use a combination of going somewhere outside of the house, reading literature that I find the most brilliant and stimulating, and then, and this is the main thing, I muscle my way through (I did this yesterday). I sit in front of the blank page/screen for a long time doing nothing but thinking. Then usually after 2 or 3 hours (interrupted by coffee refills, ordering lunch, checking email, going to the bathroom etc.) I give up and just write something stupid:

“Dave was walking down the sidewalk.”

And from there I ask myself, What did Dave see? What interesting thing happened to Dave? And then I come up with, “Dave found something meaningful on the sidewalk” or “Dave had just emerged from donating blood, so he was woozy” or “Dave saw a homeless man lying still and feared that he might be dead…” And away I go.

No joke, it took me 3+ hours to get started because it’s been three weeks since I fed the monkey. I struggled with rereading everything I’d already written (it was a short story), but I knew that would take 20 minutes, and I would feel the need to start editing.

But I couldn’t think of something new and interesting to happen to my character. So I started with something stupid.

This may just be my new Writer’s Mantra. Start with something stupid.

Afterward, you can delete the stupid stuff. No one has to see it. The trick is letting yourself write something stupid. That may be the hardest part of all. Good luck!


9 thoughts on “#MondayBlogs: Goodreads asks: How do you deal with writer’s block?

  1. A good post and often what I suffer from myself. In my case, I started blogging about 2 years back, wrote over 90 posts in the first year but now I can’t even come up with 1 post in a couple of weeks. Mostly, it is not only lack of content that causes writer’s block, but also the lack of discipline. Mostly, I know what to write about but sometimes quite after 2-3 paras and then I never have the patience to get back to finishing it. Maybe my mind stops at that point and I find it extremely difficult to work forward. Any suggestions?

  2. I think this is brilliant – the difficulty with Writer’s Block is that it is different for everybody. I quite often run into a wall on a certain project, but can write my fingers off if I turn to a different thing. But somedays I don’t have the drive to write anything, even though I have the time and opportunity. That’s when the glooms arrive. Next time, I’ll think about what Dave might be doing….

  3. “Start with something stupid” is a good rule. It reminds me of the line from the (Kansas) poet, William Stafford, a professor told me and that I use when I get stuck: “Lower your standards.” I don’t think writer’s block relates to creativity, since, as you pointed out, it happens to highly creative people. I think it’s plain and simple the fear of writing crap. Everything else comes from that. “I’m going to write crap, which means I’m not a writer, or means people will laugh at me, or means I’ll never get published, etc., etc. “Lower your standards” basically says it’s okay to write crap; in fact, it’s inescapable and necessary. And all it means is that you need to revise later, which you need to do anyway. The writers I’ve read who deny the existence of writer’s block seem to be comfortable, either by experience or temperament, with putting crap down when they have to, so that fear doesn’t get in their way. They accept the need for both crap and revision. They lower their standards when drafting and raise them during revision.

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