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!)

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How to Write a Mystery


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Margaret H. Laing

I moved to Chicago from the south suburbs in 1986. I have diverse interests, but I love writing about what I’m interested in. Whether it’s a personal interest or part of my career, the correct words to get the idea across are important to me. I love words and languages — French and Scottish words enrich my American English. My career has included years as a journalist and years working in museums, and the two phases were united by telling stories. I’m serious about words and stories. So here I am, ready to tell stories about words and their languages.

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