I’m Just A Teenage Mailbag, Baby: More Student Questions

I’m Just A Teenage Mailbag, Baby: More Student Questions

Figure 1. Norman Reedus, being his beautiful, excellent self. This has nothing to do with writing.

Figure 1. Norman Reedus, being his beautiful, excellent self. This has nothing to do with writing.


Student Question #2:

How do you handle writer’s block?


I don’t like the phrase “writer’s block.” It comes off as a magical affliction.

Instead, I see having problems with getting started or continuing or feeling stuck as part and parcel of the job of writing things. So, telling yourself you have ‘writer’s block’ isn’t a diagnosis that will help you.

What you need to do is accept that sometimes writing is hard and doesn’t go smoothly.

Sometimes you don’t know what should happen next in your story.

Sometimes you don’t want to go forward because you’re concerned what you’ve already written is wrong somehow.

Sometimes you need to think a little bit more about what you’re doing or what you have already done.

Sometimes you are tired or stressed-out or sick or you  hate the assignment you’re working on or you’ve fallen in love and just want to be dreamy and distracted about your beloved or you’re really into a new book you just got or your friends want you to come swimming and you just feel like splashing around in the water and having fun and and and or or or…





So, face it. Give up. Get up from your writing space. YIELD to the fact that things are not going well.


— Turn on the television. Play a game. Text someone. Take a shower.
— Have you eaten lately? Have some lunch. Drink some water or coffee or whatever.
— Go outside. Stretch. Sit in the shade and stare at things.
— Take a walk. Go running. Swimming. Hiking. Cross-country skiiing. Hang-gliding. Snow-shoeing. Move your carcass around.
— Get on your bike and roll around the streets, coasting, letting your brain wander without worrying about what it’s thinking about.
— Call a writer friend up and complain. Or email. Either way.
— If you’ve been typing, try writing long-hand. If you’re writing long-hand, try typing.
— Make a list of things that aren’t going right in the writing.
— Listen to music.
— Get in the car and drive somewhere. Go do some dumb errands.
— Read a book. Read a magazine. Go to the library and wander around the stacks.

Actually, you can pretty much do anything besides sit at your desk and angst. Give yourself a time limit, though. Maybe you need an hour. Four hours. An entire day? But set a limit for how long you’ll need.

Probably, you’ll get an idea before the limit is up anyway. Because the act of giving up, removing yourself from the situation, will solve it for you. Writing is brainwork and our brains are mysterious creatures. Sometimes you just need to let your brain take a little cigarette break, you know?

When Matilda was in kindergarten, her excellent teacher would compliment students by saying, “Oh, good job! Kiss your brain!” And the kids would kiss their hands and tap them on the top of their heads and it was pretty much the cutest thing ever. And I don’t think it needs to stop once you finish kindergarten, either.






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