Understanding and overcoming writer’s block

Some insights and strategies for the affliction every writer dreads

Terry Pratchett and Jodi Picoult didn’t believe in it. Maya Angelou was wary of it. Joan Didion and Ray Bradbury apparently suffered from it. Writer’s block is a tricky, nefarious topic: no one can quite agree on what it is, or on the strategy for overcoming it. In Writers Dreaming, Angelou said, ‘I may write for two weeks, “the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat …” And it might just be the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. … And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, “OK. OK. I’ll come.”’ Didion had a more practical solution:  according to her editor, she would simply put her manuscript in a bag in the freezer!

I have never been stymied by a long bout of writer’s block (lasting more than a couple of weeks), for which I’m grateful. I would also caution that, once named as an affliction, writer’s block can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, getting stuck during the writing process is very real, and something I’ve experienced many times. Here are four reasons I think it happens, and some ways to overcome it.

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