Coffee, Cigarettes, and Writer’s Block – Guest Post by Richard Petracca

A fresh cup of coffee is in front of you, your cigarette is burning, the laptop is open, and its blank screen is staring back at you. We’ve all been there. You are ready to write, but nothing, not even one word, pops into your head. You spend hours raking your brain to no avail. You end up drinking the whole pot and smoking half a pack. Now you have a headache, your hands are shaking, you can’t breathe, and there is still nothing written.

writer's block, woodgatesvie. com

writer’s block, woodgatesview. com

This isn’t a pretty picture, but when you’re a writer, it can become the norm. Sometimes it feels like it will never end, but never fear, it will, and hopefully before your deadline. Here are a few things you can do to help the creative process.

The first great tool you can use is free writing. It has only a few simple rules. First, write whatever pops into your head for a set amount of time – 5, 10, 15 minutes. Don’t correct what you write and don’t judge it. Most of all, have fun with it. If all you can think of at first is nothing, then write the word nothing down. Look at it as stress relief. Free writing allows you to enter your subconscious and most important, it can give you new ideas on things to write about. There is no wrong way to do it. I have a spiral notebook just for that purpose, but whatever you have handy will work.

Keep an idea book. This is my favorite tool. It works almost like a journal, but again, you jot down anything that enters your mind. What are some examples of things I’ve written down? I’m in the mood for ice creamfrogs don’t like broccoli, or the one that started me on my first book, God called me on my cell phone last night. Keep this book with you all the time. You never know when your next great idea will hit. When you are stuck and don’t have a clue what to write, read over the thoughts you have put down in your idea book. Try to make it a bound book and date your thoughts.

Walk away from your writing and do something else. Take a shower or wash the dishes. This is normally when I get my ideas. When my hair is full of soap and the hot water is running down my back is really not the best time, but it gets my brain working. Best of all, my notebook or laptop are only a rinse and towel dry away. Do whatever it takes to get your mind away from looking at your blank screen and trying to force out the next great novel. Pretty much anything will work, but forcing it out never works.

Try talking to another writer or joining your local Writer’s Guild. There you will meet others who are in the same boat as you. It is a great place to get ideas and talk them over. They do readings for each other and critique each other’s writing in a positive way. You’ll also be able to help others do the same. It is a great way to get over the fear of reading what you have written in public. The Long Island Writer’s Guild has helped me with a lot more than just getting past writer’s block.

girl writing,

girl writing,

One thing I’ve found that definitely works is research. I’ve been told hundreds of times that you must know about something before you can write about it. Research is the one thing that helps me past my writer’s block better than anything else. Always have a good amount of research material around you. Me? I keep a variety of books around me – my favorite novels, books on mythology, religious texts, and books on weaponry. The internet is also a great tool for research. You will find a plethora of inspiration in research. At worst, if you aren’t inspired to write, at least you will have more knowledge you can pull from when the block ends.

Writer’s block is only temporary. Don’t get too frustrated as we all experience it at one point or another. I hope these ideas help you to get past your block. Trust me, they are not the only ways. You will find your own techniques to work through it. Just don’t ever stop writing.

Recommended Article: Dealing with Writer’s Block


  2 comments for “Coffee, Cigarettes, and Writer’s Block – Guest Post by Richard Petracca

  1. April 27, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    And then you get on Facebook :). That’s totally me, except for the cigarette part (yuk). I think I’ve employed all those tips, and they work. I also switch gears and write something totally different, like flash fiction. Often, it’s enough to get my brain juices flowing.

  2. jhbowden
    April 27, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    Then there’s Robert Benchley, who was pressed for something for The New Yorker, looked out of his window from his office at the magazine, noting it was a nice spring day and that his favorite apothecary was nearby, started with “The.” He added “the the the” and then “the hell with it,” went out and headed to the bar for a drink.

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