Tips for Writers: A Cure for Writer’s Block

Presentation1
One possible cure. Preferable cure below.

There are two definitions for block: 1) an obstacle to be avoided; 2) a material to be used (as in construction). The cure for Writers Block (and its evil twin, Trouble Getting Started) is to abandon #1 and embrace #2. But before we can do that, we need to understand what writer’s block is and is not:

It’s not about being unable to write. Professional writers–who do not have the luxury of waiting for inspiration–know that being unable to write (short of a serious medical condition such as a coma*) doesn’t really happen. Why? Because writing is simply putting thoughts into words. If you have thoughts, you can write.

The real fear is being unable to write well, which amounts to the fear of not being able to write a great first draft.

Writers who believe in great first drafts are like romantics who believe in love at first sight. But if you ask people who’ve known enduring love, most will tell you their relationships grew into something wonderful. First drafts, like first dates, often begin awkwardly and then evolve through repeated exchanges of thoughts and feelings. That’s why one of the most fundamental sayings about writing is:

“Great stories (essays, plays, etc.) aren’t written, they’re re-written.”

True, writing Under the Influence of a muse can sometimes produce stunning results. On the other hand, writing While Not Under the Influence can produce equally effective results. Woody Allen, one of the most successful screenwriters ever, has said he demands only one thing of himself: to write for four hours a day. He doesn’t require himself to write well, because he knows he can’t plan on that. Furthermore, he has observed zero correlation between inspiration and success. He’s written flops while feeling inspired, and some of his most enduring works while experiencing writer’s block.

How to use writer’s blocks to construct something:

First, write crap! Uninspired writing can be the “plumber’s snake” that clears your pipes, allowing better writing to flow. That first hour of bad writing is often responsible for the better writing that follows. Similarly, writing what doesn’t work is often the key to figuring out what does. “Wait, she can’t do that because then he’ll know she has a gun…. But what if she hides the gun…?!”

Second, write from the left. When the right (artist) side of your brain isn’t cooperating, use the left (technician) side. Outline your story; use tried-and-true formulas (your right brain will eventually shape them into something original). Don’t have an idea? Steal one and reverse it: “What if A Christmas Carol were about a kind and selfless man?” Result: It’s a Wonderful Life. Or take time to figure out who you can base your characters on, and then write bios, noting mannerisms and speech patterns. Disciplined R & D You will lay the groundwork disorderly Artist You when he or she shows up late, smelling suspiciously of herbs.

There’s no such thing as “pure art.” All artists are also technicians. If they weren’t, their work would be incomprehensible. Remember Edison’s famous “10% inspiration, 90% perspiration” line? Well, it applies to writers, too. And, anyway, the wall between the two isn’t made of stone, it’s made of jelly. Artists spend most of their time oozing back and forth between the two sides of their brain. So lace up your literary Nikes and “Just do it!”

Don’t stumble over writer’s blocks, use them to build something that will—eventually—be wonderful!

*Not be mistaken for the comma, a somewhat less serious condition that, can, nevertheless, worsen, if, used, inc,orre,ctly,,,

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Quips and Quotes, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Tips for Writers: A Cure for Writer’s Block

  1. Kim Smyth says:

    My solution is to use prompts, of course, I just mean in everyday writing, blogging, etc. That probably wouldn’t work for a book. But what I find helps me is WordPress daily prompts and Medium’s thousands of publications, someone always has a contest, prompt, or exercise, I write something on one of their pubs every day! I love the fact that I can write everything from poetry to flash fiction one publication or another. The more you write, the better chance of making a few pennies if your writing goes behind the paywall, plus the exposure gets you noticed.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. atimetoshare.me says:

    Great advice😃

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bill Sweeney says:

    Great advice, Mitch. Those pesky commas 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. JOY journal says:

    Hahahahaha! Perhaps a comma coma?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Clever Girl says:

    Good stuff! I’m thinking discipline is important. You must make yourself sit down and write every day, like Woody. Stephen King treats his writing like a job. He takes his coffee into his home office, closes the door and writes for six or more hours, like if he were at a job.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great post! Unfortunately I just write whatever comes out at the time but then I am not a “writer.” My blog is just an attempt to help others and share experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post and good advice! I always find that handwriting stuff helps, too. Somehow it feels less intimidating and more tactile. Journal without self-judgment!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Thanks for posting this 🙂 The following statement is particularly insightful: “The real fear is being unable to write well, which amounts to the fear of not being able to write a great first draft.” I think a lot of people expect too much from themselves. They ‘demand’ close to perfection immediately rather than seeing writing as a craft, and something you keep working on.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I think what most important to remember is that there are multiple strategies that can be used to overcome writer’s block, and we each need to find the one that works best for us. I like that you (and the people who have commented so far) have suggested a variety that people can try to see what works best for them.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. revruss1220 says:

    Great advice! Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Love this article! I’ll be remembering Woody Allen’s daily goal. Writing without necessarily writing WELL is definitely doable.
    Personally, my biggest challenge is finding (making) the time to write. Usually by the time I get to it, I’ve already been inspired and done my first, second, and third draft in my head. I’ve often also spoken the material out loud in conversations. So my “first draft” isn’t really my first draft. It’s more like “I really ought to write this down…”.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. When I have writer’s block, I write about having writer’s block …

    Liked by 2 people

    • A few years ago, I read a haiku that is a nice example of this trick:

              © Bill Bisgood | The Write Idea
                      Six days, no haiku
                      Someone throw me a lifeline
                      Pencil poised to strike!

      It then occurred to me that writer’s block is nothing to be ashamed of.  Happens to everybody.

              *First Sabbath*
                      After 6 hectic days,
                      writer’s block dissipated.
                      God wrote a haiku.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Love this! Great advice. As with life 😉 Don’t stumble over the things that are blocking your path – collect them and use them to build!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I dread to think what would be produced if I were to write for any more than four MINUTES a day..

    Like

  15. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Topnotch writing doesn’t just flow from your pen?! I had no idea writer’s block was an issue for you, Mitch. Thank you for the useful tips–especially the one about switching from right brain to left brain. Makes sense to give the dominant side a break once in awhile. I’ll have to research that further.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      Hah! I think writers whose words just flow from their pens only exist in movies, Nancy, ironically, written by screenwriters who struggled to get their script into a producible form! Glad there was something useful here for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Ann Coleman says:

    That’s excellent advice for writers!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Thanks for the trick. This may be my salvation.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Thank you Mitch. I have been letting perceived “writers block” allow me to slack off and be lazy about writing for days on end sometimes. I have a whole lot of justifications (excuses) to keep it going. I really like the idea of a block as something to build on or with. I will take this to heart for memory in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. gpavants says:

    Hi Mitch,

    What does that tombstone say? It does remind me that there are lots of days to write when we feel at a dead impasse. Talking, listening, praying, etc. is also part of the writing, communication process. The Lord gives me ideas and nuggets of gold while exercising.

    In Christ,

    Gary

    Liked by 1 person

  20. gregoryjoel says:

    Thank you for the reminders. I was just expressing my “writer’s block” to my wife this weekend. Your timing couldn’t have been better.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. A KEEPER! Brilliant as always, thanks Mitch!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Brandon says:

    Well written post, very engaging.

    This is a hot topic for me right now in my own writing.

    Especially during these times where more time can be spent writing. It’s an opportunity you don’t want to let go by!

    Plenty of other opportunities as well, from financial to self-growth. I’ve always explored this topic.

    Thank you for sharing this important topic in a time of high demand.

    Nicely done! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Miss Jen says:

    “Writers who believe in great first drafts are like romantics who believe in love at first sight.” Cracked up! So true… Also love your metaphor of lacing up literary Nikes, that made me day 🙂 Yes, I agree with you, it’s about letting go of any pretences to perfectionism, too. We’re all just working at bettering our craft, one post at a time, and it’s okay to stumble along the way. It just so happens that I’ve also written a piece on how to overcome writer’s block (or the fear of facing a blank page): http://hyperbolit.com/2020/04/15/how-to-overcome-fear-of-the-blank-page-in-writing/ Would love to hear your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. phijam singh says:

    Great post. Really thanks and appreciate Mitch

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Pingback: Tips for Writers: A Cure for Writer’s Block — Mitch Teemley | Thriller/Suspense Film and Writing Festival

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