A reply to Aquinas wired about writer's block

A reply to Aquinas wired about writer's block
The china figure of Peter Rabbit in my own collection, along with some the many neighbors he's gained over the years. Photograph by Margaret H. Laing

My esteemed colleague, Aquinas wired, posted earlier today on his excellent blog, The Quark In The Road, asking “How Do I Break a Writer’s Block?” Catch up with the post here.

In the comments, I reminded him of Beatrix Potter’s experience with Peter Rabbit, which astute readers might remember from an earlier post. Aquinas’s reader jack also recalled my post about Writer’s block or logjam, here.

But that didn’t stop me from thinking more about the subject. It’s late enough that a bit of logjam might come in handy, but here I am instead!

In the book I’ve been nosing through for many recent posts, Mystery Writers of America’s “How to Write a Mystery,” there are some essays that go one for several pages, but then there are others that last just a few lines. For instance, and for support, here’s Gigi Pandian’s whole offering:

Don’t compare your writing and publishing journey to anyone else’s. In this strange and wonderful profession, there’s no straight line to success. “Success” doesn’t even mean the same thing from one author to the next. You can define it for yourself.

Another short essay is this whole one from Elaine Viets, full of good advice for times like this — when I didn’t know where my idea was coming from until I read The Quark In The Road:

My grandfather was a security guard. He worked weekends, holidays, and nights when temperatures plummeted below zero and frozen winds blasted the empty parking lots. He never said “I don’t feel like guarding the warehouse tonight. I’m blocked.” My grandmother babysat. She never said, “I’m not watching those brats today. I’m blocked.” So when I spoke at a high school, a student asked, “What do you do about writer’s block?”
“Writer’s block doesn’t exist,” I said. “It’s an indulgence.”

When I get stuck in my novel writing, I turn from the personal relationship between Mike and Daisy to the chemistry of the poison which (I think!) is the weapon in the case Daisy wants to help Mike solve. When I get stuck on the chemistry, it’s back to Daisy’s dorm and into the reading they like to do together. Lately, I’m going outside and collecting impressions of the heat wave, since the book is set in summer school. (It worked for the snowy scenery in their last adventure.)

On the other hand, when I get stuck in my blog writing, I look around at what others are writing. See how well that works? (I hope so!)

Filed under: Writing

Tags: How to Write a Mystery


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  • An inspired and inspiring post! Thank you

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    My blushes! You're welcome.

  • I have to disagree with Viet. In the cases of grandfather, grandmother, and me, there's something we know has to be done at a certain time, and we do it. On the other hand, writing a mystery requires some sort of original idea, unless the writer is a hack. Even writing a daily comic requires an original idea, unless it is Mary Worth rerunning about 3 plots (Dawn picks the wrong love, Wilbur picks the wrong love and gets drunk, Tommy gets addicted).

    I'll go back to The Quark to discuss Blogapalooza.

  • In reply to jack:

    I understand, Jack, thank you. Yet I think completely stopping writing is an indulgence. I need to keep working on my writing, whether it's here or for my novel. If I'm working on my mystery novel, I can do different aspects of it or try a different method than the way I wrote the previous book. Right now, I'm going through a notebook I filled up a few months ago and editing scenes of Mike and Daisy reading, hoping I can get some neighbors to show up and interrupt.

    But I do miss Blogapalooza, so I'll see you back across The Road to discuss it.

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