images-11I received a semi-anonymous email last week with a plea for advice regarding writer’s block. In lieu of a traditional post this week, I thought I would share my exchange with the writer with you, our readers.

12thstreetonline is meant to be a forum for us to explore writing both personally and professionally, so I hope you guys chime in with advice for our friend in need, and perhaps pitch some queries of your own in regards to your own writing these days.

Dear Anna,

I’m having a severe case of writer’s block. I can’t work on my play, my fiction workshop stuff, anything, and I was wondering if you had any tips? It’s seriously getting to me and I don’t know what to do. Help!

Dear X,

My first piece of advice is to take a deep breath and start to look at the problem in a sectioned-off kind of way. When I am feeling blocked yet required to write, I start by making a list of what it is I need to work on and then I just look at it as a to-do list rather than a wrestling with my creative habit kind of problem. Worrying about your creative habit is a situation that can spiral out of control way too quickly.

Then you need to remember that there is such a thing as “save as” and “undo typing” and all the beauty that comes with modern technology—laptops + editing! There will always be more words tomorrow, so if you write something bad today, well, no big deal. You do not live and die by one sentence, and some amazing writers have a bad novel or two in their lineup.

Also, remember that a workshop is just that: it’s meant to deal with a work-in-progress. There is nothing I find more uninteresting than people who just bring in polished pieces and fish for compliments. School is about being messy and exploring and sometimes failing. It can also be about seeing how something you think is a failure actually isn’t.

Good luck. I also know a lot of writing exercises that have helped me with my writers block. Let me know if you want me to pass some along.


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2 Responses to A Reader’s Question

  1. Nick says:

    Dear X,
    speak to someone who knows your stuff, and is willing to talk to you about it. I bet you it’ll take one person to tell you “you’re a good writer” for you to get back on track. But it can’t be someone you don’t trust. If you regain your confidence, you lose your inhibitions, and you start writing again.


  2. Leigh Stein says:

    Read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

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