“There is no such thing as writer’s block for writers whose standards are low enough.” –American poet William Stafford
Poet William Stafford wrote every day, rising early in the mornings before the rest of his family. This discipline resulted in about 20,000 completed or attempted poems over his lifetime—of which only 6,000 or so have been published. Occasionally accused of being “too prolific,” Stafford would say, “if you get stuck, lower your standards and keep going.”
I needed this advice this week. Stuck on the same chapter for two weeks now, I realized that something needed to give. It’s not that I don’t know where this chapter is going—I do and I’ve even scratched out an outline of the scene. My problem is that I’ve been too hard on myself. I’ve been tired and stressed lately and beating myself up for not getting further in my story AND I’ve been expecting my prose to be at top-notch level during all this. Rubbish.
Taking Stafford’s advice, I realized that I just need to lighten up and get on with it. Write the crappy chapter. Let my prose suck. I can go back and fix it later when I’m not so stressed and fatigued. After all, this is a first draft. And, as my poetry mentor says, “First drafts are meant to be sucky.” Read more
Despite our best efforts to stay in the flow of our writing and showcase our brilliance in every word and idea that flashes through our mind and onto our white space, we still have times when the words get stuck.
Currently experiencing one of these frustrating moments myself, I thought I’d explore the idea of writer’s block this week and see what other writers have to say about it.
In this seven-minute video, “Getting Through Writer’s Block,” BBC writers share their tips on getting yourself unstuck, including:
- Try to write something—improving nothing is impossible, improving rubbish is entirely possible. Read more
Have you ever been in a funk with your writing? Maybe you don’t know where to take your story next. The sentences aren’t clicking into place, and you’re stuck.
Take a break and try this: Read.
I was hooked on reading at a young age, which led to my desire to write.
Reading a good book helps you remember why you wanted to write in the first place. As I read, I often think of solutions to problems in my own writing. I’m inspired by techniques other writers use. Read more
Do you ever feel rusty?
Maybe you’ve had to take a break from writing due to a health issue, a day job that is sucking the life out of you, or to round up a rogue band of unicorns that’s been terrorizing your neighborhood.
For whatever reason, the ideas aren’t flowing, the words aren’t coming, and you need to regroup. I’ve been there. Here’s how I get back into my writing groove and how you can too.
Revisit my routine. For the most part, I think humans thrive on routines. If I have a set writing schedule, my brain knows it needs to get into writer mode. If I’m off track, I know it will help to get back into my routine. Read more
Dear friend who says she has not started her book because she is a perfectionist:
Yesterday when we talked, you said you had an idea for a book but hadn’t started it yet. You cited being a “perfectionist” as the reason you’ve been blocked.
Give yourself a break. Writing by its nature is imperfect. Our pages are works in progress. Writing is a messy business. Words and ideas rarely flow onto the page the way we picture them in our minds. Sentences may feel awkward. Just when we think we know where our story is going, it stalls.
Beyond certain principles of storycraft, writing, like many other art forms, is subjective. No one writes a “perfect” manuscript on the first try. That’s why they’re called “drafts.”
Blank pages are clean and crisp – and boring. Read more
Do you ever feel like you’ve hit the writing wall and you’re not sure what to do? Relax. Read these posts to reveal a strategy that will put you back on track.
Stuck on what to write about? Consider these big ideas
Do you have a deep desire to write but aren’t sure where to start? Find the answer by asking the right questions. Read more
Have you ever put off a project because it seemed overwhelming? You want the end result — a clean, tidy garage with space to park your car. Or an organized closet with all your clothes color coded and shoes lined up side by side.
Or a finished manuscript.
But you’re overwhelmed by the size of the project. Maybe you even started it, but you’re stuck. Sometimes a change of perspective is in order.
My friend Tami and I met for coffee recently at a Borders Cafe. She mentioned that, “Yes, I need to get back into my book.”
This is how the conversation went next: Read more