Write All the Green or How I Deal With Writer’s Block

I love my job. No really. Creative, fun, brainy, usually deadline driven, what’s not to love? But there are, occasionally, times when I would rather give myself an orbital fracture with a Uniball than to sit in front of my keyboard. The kicker for these especially disheartening moments is that it’s not about a lack of effort, or willingness. It’s that I can’t. I just can’t. I wrote a few weeks ago about inspiration, but after thinking about it, often times being inspired isn’t enough. Sure it helps get me in the right direction, but more sophisticated projects require a fair amount of brain work, which my brain may or may not be willing to process on-demand.

From dictionary.com:

writer’s block (noun)

a usually temporary condition in which a writer finds it impossible to proceed with the writing of a novel, play, or other work.

At first I try. But its bad, all of it, no matter what. It’s flat, or trite, or been done before. I can honestly say that there’s truly nothing more frustrating than spending several hours writing pure drivel. Without a speck of hope. Like panning for gold all day and pulling up nothing but gravel.


So what do you do when this happens?


I can’t help you, really, because I don’t know what causes it, or why it goes away, but here are some exercises you could try*:

1) Think of something you love (or really dislike) and write about it with a contrary opinion.

2) Write about the light coming through your window. (Or in SF, write about the fog).

3) Choose a color (green!) and go for a fifteen-minute walk. Find green as many times as you can. Then go home and write about green for fifteen minutes.

4) If you suspect you’re being lazy (not blocked, per se) , just set a timer and free write as much as you can without thinking about spelling, grammar, being cute or clever… just let it rip. Timers work with housework too. 😉

* These are from Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, one of my many books on the subject.

Writer’s block is now in Wikipedia, why I’m not exactly sure, but it has some moments in popular culture. I omitted the super-queso mentions:

The film Barton Fink, the title character while working on a script for a wrestling picture types one sentence and is then unable to write anymore and is consumed by a terrible case of writer’s block that causes him to descend into madness. (The Coen Brothers wrote the script for Barton Fink in a matter of weeks to take their minds off Miller’s Crossing, another screenplay that caused them writer’s block due to the complex plot.)

Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder suffered from writer’s block during the recording of Pearl Jam’s 2000 album, Binaural. He banned himself from playing guitar until he came up with more lyrics, and a hidden track of typewriter sound effects was added to the album entitled “Writer’s Block”.

In Adaptation, the main character, Charlie Kaufman, suffers severe writer’s block when he is unable to write the screenplay for The Orchid Thief.

I’m editing all day (read: I’m off the hook for now), but I’m getting ready to work on some creative stuff during the holidays. We’ll see what happens…






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