Writer's block. For most people it rears its unimaginative head when trying to come up with something marginally interesting to say in the third "sorry to hear you're leaving" card passed around the office in under an hour. For authors, of course, it's a bigger deal. As such, they're probably best placed to tell us how to get over it...
"I have gravity boots [to overcome writer's block]. I hang upside down everyday. I realise it sounds strange, but it's not all that strange. It oxygenates your brain. It helps you see the world in a different perspective."
"All through my career I've written 1,000 words a day - even if I've got a hangover. You've got to discipline yourself if you're professional. There's no other way."
"The scariest moment is always just before you start [writing]. After that, things can only get better."
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"One of the most difficult things is the first paragraph. I have spent many months on a first paragraph, and once I get it, the rest just comes out very easily."
"Put it aside for a few days, or longer, do other things, try not to think about it. Then sit down and read it (printouts are best I find, but that’s just me) as if you’ve never seen it before. Start at the beginning. Scribble on the manuscript as you go if you see anything you want to change. And often, when you get to the end you’ll be both enthusiastic about it and know what the next few words are. And you do it all one word at a time.”
John Steinbeck (via George Plimpton)
"Pretend that you’re writing not to your editor or to an audience or to a readership, but to someone close, like your sister, or your mother, or someone that you like."
"If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word."
"I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning."
"In the middle of writing something you go blank and your mind says: “No, that’s it.” You’re being warned. Your subconscious is saying “I don’t like you anymore. You’re writing about things I don’t give a damn for.” You’re being political, or you’re being socially aware. You’re writing things that will benefit the world. To hell with that! I don’t write things to benefit the world. If it happens that they do, swell. I didn’t set out to do that. I set out to have a hell of a lot of fun."
"The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start."
"If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient."
Charles Bukowski (The Last Night of the Earth Poems)
“Writing about a writer's block is better than not writing at all”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
"In writing, there is first a creating stage - a time you look for ideas, you explore, you cast around for what you want to say. Like the first phase of building, this creating stage is full of possibilities."
"What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come.'"
"[My cure for writer's block?] The necessity of earning a living."
"All writing problems are psychological problems. Blocks usually stem from the fear of being judged. If you imagine the world listening, you'll never write a line. That's why privacy is so important. You should write first drafts as if they will never be shown to anyone."
"What sometimes happens is that you get stuck, and it’s really not what you’re about to do that’s stumping you, it’s something you’ve already done that isn’t right. You have to go back and fix that. My father described a process in which, as it were, he had to take himself gently but firmly by the hand and say, "Now all right, calm down. What is it that’s worrying you?" The dialogue will go: "Well, it’s the first page, actually. What is it about the first page?" He might say, "The first sentence." And he realised that it was only a little thing that was holding him up."
"All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get plumber’s block, and doctors don’t get doctor’s block; why should writers be the only profession that gives a special name to the difficulty of working, and then expects sympathy for it?"
"That famous writer’s block is a myth as far as I’m concerned. I think bad writers must have a great difficulty writing. They don’t want to do it. They have become writers out of reasons of ambition. It must be a great strain to them to make marks on a page when they really have nothing much to say, and don’t enjoy doing it. I’m not so sure what I have to say but I certainly enjoy making sentences."
Orson Scott Card
“Writer’s block is my unconscious mind telling me that something I’ve just written is either unbelievable or unimportant to me, and I solve it by going back and reinventing some part of what I’ve already written so that when I write it again, it is believable and interesting to me. Then I can go on. Writer’s block is never solved by forcing oneself to “write through it,” because you haven’t solved the problem that caused your unconscious mind to rebel against the story, so it still won’t work – for you or for the reader.”