First, I want to thank Maryann for hosting me here today. I appreciate the opportunity to be a guest and share some thoughts on writer’s block.
As an author I’m often asked: Is there such thing as writer’s block? There are two schools of thought on this. The more popular among published authors seems to be “no.” Authors frequently reply to this common question by saying, “Writing is a job, just like any other. A plumber doesn’t wake up one morning and decide he has a case of plumber’s block.”
I disagree. In addition to being a writer, I am a lawyer, and I do indeed occasionally wake up with a case of lawyer’s block (a term I first read in a David Rosenfelt novel). It’s not as though I’ve suddenly forgotten the law or how to argue. Lawyer’s block, like writer’s block, is a simple lack of confidence. It happens to all of us at some point in our careers, I believe, whether we argue motions, write novels, teach young children, or fix pipes.
Confidence is key to my own writing. On days I receive glowing reviews, I typically write until I fall asleep at the computer. Conversely, when my work is panned, I’m sometimes frozen for days or weeks. Maybe I’m hypersensitive; maybe in time, that will change. But when I lose my confidence – at the computer or in the courtroom – I tend to think of it as being blocked.
How to overcome writer’s block? That’s the question. More pointedly, how to regain your confidence once a critic or agent or editor has done some serious damage to it? I’ve tried a number of things, with varying degrees of success. First, you might try taking some time away from your current project. Not too long, or else you may never return to it. When I step away, I try to work on something fun, something that requires less concentration. I find that when I return to my former project days or weeks later I feel refreshed. Unblocked.
Read. When I’m blocked I often read books in the genre in which I’m working. That often gets the creative juices flowing. I also go back and read my own work, published novels and short stories, articles and editorials. Reading work others have praised provides a shot of affirmation just when you need it most.
Of course, you could also do what many writers do. Pretend that writer’s block doesn’t exist. Sit down at your computer, stare down that glowing white page, eye that blinking cursor, and simply start typing. Of course, when your confidence is down, you may not write your best material. Which may lead to further panning and rejection. Which may lead to even lower levels of confidence. Or writer’s block. If it exists, that is.
Douglas Corleone is the author of the Kevin Corvelli crime series published by St. Martin’s Minotaur. His debut novel ONE MAN’S PARADISE won the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. A practicing attorney, Douglas divides his time between New York and Hawaii. NIGHT ON FIRE is his second novel.