Archives for January 2014

The Third Secret To Overcoming Writer’s Block

Titian Portrait, The Third Secret to Overcoming Writer's BlockYou’re sitting in front of your computer. You’ve removed all distractions. You’re only thinking about writing one page today. Yet still you can’t overcome your writer’s block and get started. What’s wrong?

    Close your eyes for a moment, sit back, and ask yourself  if you can feel an invisible critic sitting on your shoulder whispering discouraging things in your ear. The imaginary Critic is the writer’s enemy. He’s responsible for more writer’s block than all the real critics in the world combined. He may be a husband, a wife, a lover, a mother, father, sister, brother or even a close friend–anyone whose good opinion you value including yourself  because we’re often our own worst critics.

Here are some of the things a Critic says: “What makes you think you can write? You have no talent? Your writing is so bad, it’s embarrassing. People will pity you when they see how awful it is. The reviews, if this mess every gets reviewed, are going to be so nasty you’re going to have to change your name and move to another country. Worse yet, you’re revealing intimate things about your friends and family that they’ll never forgive your for not to mention things about yourself that will make decent people flinch when they hear your name.

    The third secret to overcoming writer’s block is to tell your Critic to shut up. Since he probably won’t, at least not at first, you need to remind yourself that no one ever has to see what you’re writing today. This is a rough draft and all rough drafts are awkward. You can change it, take out the parts that make you uncomfortable, polish and revise for years if you feel like it. Until you show it to someone (and I’ll talk later about the dangers of doing this too soon), it’s more private than a locked diary hidden in a safe. Tell your Critic to take a hike.

Come back soon to The Writer’s Journey Blog for more secrets to overcoming writer’s block and starting your novel.

The Second Secret to Overcoming Writer’s Block

   Barred Window, The Second Secret of Overcoming Writer's Block If you write a page a day, you’ll have a novel-length manuscript at the end of a year. But how do you overcome writer’s block and get yourself to start writing that daily page instead of doing other things?

The second secret to overcoming writer’s block is self-imprisonment. Yes, that’s right: self-imprisonment. When I was in graduate school, I noticed many of the authors I was reading had spent time in prison: Thomas More (who coined the word “utopia”),  Dostoevsky; O. Henry; Voltaire who wrote over 2,000 books and pamphlets–a great example of overcoming writer’s block if I there ever was one.

Why do people in prison write? Because in prison you don’t have anything else to do. Stare at a barred window long enough, and you’ll find yourself wanting to do something else, and if you’re a writer, that something else will be to write.

I don’t actually lock myself in my study, but four or five days a week I make the following deal with myself:  I will stay in my study for exactly one hour. During that time I will not do anything else except write. If I don’t have anything to write about, I will spend that hour writing about how I can’t write.

As you may have already guessed, it’s incredibly boring to write about how you can’t write. As I sit there typing about my lack of inspiration, I always recall that scene in The Shining when Jack Nicholson shows Shelley Duvall his “novel” which consists of hundreds of pages of the single sentence: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

However, in the end, it always pays off. Sooner or later if you imprison yourself in your room and write about how you can’t write, you get so bored that you overcome writer’s block and begin writing your novel. At that point, remember:  don’t get up and leave the room.

Come back soon to The Writer’s Journey Blog for more secrets to overcoming writer’s block and starting your novel.



The First Secret To Overcoming Writer’s Block

manuscript with thorns,The First Secret of Overcoming Writer's BlockWriter’s block gets in everyone’s way but fortunately overcoming writer’s block is not all that hard if you learn a few tricks. The truth is, almost anything is easier to do than to begin a 350 page novel. At least with non-fiction you have a subject. But when you start writing a novel, you only have a blank computer screen and your imagination, and that’s a recipe for writer’s block.

Writing is the center of my life, yet every morning, I get up, turn on my computer, and think of other things I could do instead. Before I start, I could tidy up my desk. Think how much  more efficient that would make me! Or better yet, I could bake a pie since the reviews from my family are always good, and I don’t have to wait to find out if if my effort has been a success. I could even give in to the greatest temptation of all: go online and answer emails, update my Facebook page, and read the latest news to see if anything catastrophic has happened since I went to bed last night. When I find myself cleaning the oven, I know I’ve hit rock bottom.

So how do I overcome writer’s block and scale the wall of seductive activities which tempts me every morning? The secret is that I don’t think about writing a novel. I only think about writing a page. Yes, a single page. That’s all you or I have to write on any given day. No one, myself included, can face an entire novel all at once. It’s too long and too scary. So sit down today and write Page One of your novel. You’ll have taken the first step to overcoming writer’s block, and as I often remind myself as I peel off my rubber gloves and back out of the oven: a page a day is a novel a year.

Come back soon to The Writer’s Journey Blog for more secrets to overcoming writer’s block.