Category: writer’s block

I had a blast writing the first draft…a…

I had a blast writing the first draft…and just let myself take risks and go down rabbit holes, but in the revision, I had to really reign it in and flesh it out….Write the shitty first draft. A finished story is better than a perfect story that just lives in your mind.

Something that keeps me going when I get stuck…

Something that keeps me going when I get stuck in my writing is getting the hell out of the house. I take walks, very late at night, around the lake that sits nearby. It’s quiet—just me and all the nocturnal animals, many mosquitoes, and my sweaty beer—and I’ll stroll and listen to the cicadas shriek. It’s good to look around at all that expansive beauty and wonder about the largeness of the planet: I’m such a small thing, just one of many creatures.

I try to write every day. If that isn’t possib…

I try to write every day. If that isn’t possible—since we’re human and we need breathers—I read, watch television, and spend time with my loved ones. I find that the majority of my inspiration comes from just living my life, so I take my non-writing time as seriously as I do my writing.

Knowing that writing is a process more than it…

Knowing that writing is a process more than it is talent eases most of my anxieties when the words just aren’t there. Baldwin once said, ‘Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.’ Because of this, I keep going back to the blank pages.

As someone who has spent more of my life cooki…

As someone who has spent more of my life cooking food than writing poems, I have an intimate relationship to material; how things feel in my hand and in my mouth. Faced with an empty page, sometimes I need to leave words, get up, go outside, and get my hands dirty. But if words help, here are some the poet Dean Young wrote….‘You can’t sustain inspiration, you can only court it, and here’s the thing: it happens WHILE you work. It’s not something to wait around for. You have to sweep the temple steps a lot in hopes that the god appears.‘

When I find myself in the writing weeds, I hav…

When I find myself in the writing weeds, I have finally learned to pay attention to the warning signs: Stop. Go back. Do not push farther in. I resist the urge to soldier on, to muddle through, to fix a line here or there, to delete whole paragraphs that make no sense at that moment, to get to the end of the page….I give in. I nap. Conk out. Let sleep’s hammer fall. Writers write, we’re told endlessly. Yes, but writers must also stop….You only grow when you are lying down. Lie down—the body knits its own plots.

I’m writing a novel, and have been for over a …

I’m writing a novel, and have been for over a decade. I’ve had periods of great productivity, days when one thousand-word quotas turn into four thousand words….But working on a singular project for years isn’t easy. Some days the writing rushes like the Rio Grande, and sometimes, weeks, months, or even years pass, and my pages don’t budge. Instead, they buck against my will. When those days arrive, I refuel my well, the headwaters supplying my creative stream. I visit historic archives and museums, galleries and art shows, movies and talks….

Another thing I like to do is find one theme i…

Another thing I like to do is find one theme in my previous writing that still has juice, that feels like it hasn’t been fully explored yet, and follow it into the rabbit hole. In a way, my second collection came about because of this method. I took one phrase from a poem in my first book, ‘cowboy theme park,’ and started collecting everything I could that seemed related to that idea. It was like finding a loose thread, tugging, and instead of everything unraveling, discovering that it was tied to a very interesting monster.

“I don’t actually believe in writer’s block. I…

“I don’t actually believe in writer’s block. I believe in fallow periods. I believe fallow periods are necessary to restore the fertility of a field. I believe that if you’re not writing and you’re worried about not writing, you’re likely to one day write again. That if you’re not writing and not worried about not writing, you may have found new things to do with your time, and that’s okay too.”

Camille T. Dungy, in “Say Yes to Yourself: A Poet’s Guide to Living and Writing” in the May/June issue of Poets & Writers Magazine (2019)

“I don’t actually believe in writer’s block. I…

“I don’t actually believe in writer’s block. I believe in fallow periods. I believe fallow periods are necessary to restore the fertility of a field. I believe that if you’re not writing and you’re worried about not writing, you’re likely to one day write again. That if you’re not writing and not worried about not writing, you may have found new things to do with your time, and that’s okay too.”

Camille T. Dungy, in “Say Yes to Yourself: A Poet’s Guide to Living and Writing” in the May/June issue of Poets & Writers Magazine (2019)