how can i cure my writer's block?

It could be worse. You could be like me. I start a great story and lay down a few thousand words and suddenly … I loose interest. It gripes my butt! I have my hard drive and disks full of great but unfinished stories that I have lost interest in! AAARGH! Oh for the days when I would write almost obsessively and complete works with great abandon! I hope that my writing skills will soon return myself and on that note, I have nothing to offer you but sympathy. Great sympathy.

Sometimes a story just has to age for a while before it’s really good. I have one I’ve been working on off and on for several years, and it’s finally starting to shape up. Ya know, when Mr. Lea and Mr. Perrins first tasted their recipe, it was pretty nasty. They didn’t get around to throwing it away until several months later, and decided to try it once more before giving it the heave-ho. Thus was born Worcestershire sauce.

Here’s the advice I read from the pros (sorry, I only really know SF writers):

Philip Jose Farmer used to come up with pen names, develop elborate backgrounds for them, then write under that penname.

Frederik Pohl vouches for the 5 page a day method. Doesn’t matter if it’s any good, write it anyway. You can always rewrite.

Joe Haldeman switches to writing poetry when he’s stuck on prose.

Alfred Bester used to do research on interesting people. It was partly his job anyway (he did a lot of interviews for “Holiday” magazine), but it got to be a good source of info.

Isaac Asimov found that, if he was stuck on a story, he must have started telling it too close to the beginning. He’d then start at a spot later in the story, then fill us in with flashbacks. “…The God’s Themselves” actually starts at the end of the story.

Harlan Ellison (and Asimov) keep a lot of stories going at once. If one gives them a problem, they switch to another. This works best if you write both fiction and non-fiction.

Theodore Sturgeon used to wait it out. Once he waited 8 years between stories. Okay, so that’s not such good advice…

I stand behind Mr P and point out in a Very Loud Voice that the writers block he’s indulging now will lead to Severe Lack of Income in 2 years time.

Then we spend time brainstorming plots until there’s one he feels he can work with.

It works for me. He hates it. :slight_smile:

My best writting is accomplished between 1 and 4 beers.

This is a matter of opinion, but Farmer, Pohl, and Sturgeon, in this professional writer’s book, are perfect examples of people who haven’t overcome writer’s block to any advantage. Except to earn themselves a paycheck. Big deal.

They write painfully: whether they’re “on a roll” or not. They don’t have aptitude, don’t understand entertaining a general audience, and are oblivious to the niceties of educated English speech.

“Toughing it out”, for such writers, is an indulgent exercise. Harsh? That’s the point. Overcoming “writer’s block” as if it were some abstract modern dysfunction is puerile. Writer’s block, perhaps 90% of the time, is someone’s subconscious telling them to do something useful with their life. Writing isn’t a holy experience. If one isn’t inspired… one shouldn’t inflict debased art on an unsuspecting public.

Learning how to solve writing problems is one thing. Learning how to be a hack is another. And “writer’s block” appears for both types of writer.

I agree with you that Pohl sucks (except for Gateway), but come on. It’s not a crime to write badly, and you’re not going to learn how to write well if you don’t write at all. I think the key is to write something, and then find someone who is willing to point out all the flaws so you can make it better. Sometimes a famous writer uses their clout to push junk through, and that is unfortunate. But that doesn’t mean that we should actively discourage anyone from trying. Einstein was a pretty bad student in his younger days, and look what he did.

You could try writing fan-fiction. The advantage being that the characters are already created for you, and you only need to think about manipulating them; which is less pressure than coming up with something interesting entirely on your own.

At first I thought the idea was silly, but after not coming up with anything for a few months last summer and fall, I decided what the hell, and gave it a shot. If someone had told me in October that I would have written 15 ~7000 word interconnected short stories between then and now, I would have laughed at them- but done it I have.

It’s not marketable, but it is getting me to write nearly every day, it entertains people, and it’s a great source of instantanious feedback- which is something a lot of writers crave. It has also helped me figure out how to write a long complex story involving the same characters, which is something I used to get bored of after 15-20,000 words. I’ve promised readers two more stories, then I’m taking a break to work on stories that have occured to me in the mean time.

at least it’s fun

You could try writing fan-fiction. The advantage being that the characters are already created for you, and you only need to think about manipulating them; which is less pressure than coming up with something interesting entirely on your own.

At first I thought the idea was silly, but after not coming up with anything for a few months last summer and fall, I decided what the hell, and gave it a shot. If someone had told me in October that I would have written 15 ~7000 word interconnected short stories between then and now, I would have laughed at them- but done it I have.

It’s not marketable, but it is getting me to write nearly every day, it entertains people, and it’s a great source of instantanious feedback- which is something a lot of writers crave. It has also helped me figure out how to write a long complex story involving the same characters, which is something I used to get bored of after 15-20,000 words. I’ve promised readers two more stories, then I’m taking a break to work on stories that have occured to me in the mean time.

at least it’s fun