Writer’s Block Relief at Dragon Con

Anya Martin moderated a stellar panel on writer’s block for the Writer’s Track with fellow panelists Mercedes Lackey, Kim Harrison, Gail Z. Martin, John G. Hartness, Jennifer St. Giles, Kathryn Hinds, and Anne Bartolucci, PhD, CBSM. Wondering about the significance of the size of the audience, Anya Martin began the panel with a one-size-fits-all solution for writer’s block: coffee!

But setting aside her off-the-cuff remark, she asked panelists to address other facets of the elusive writing glitch. Several of the panelists discussed other conditions that could legitimately affect productivity but that other trades don’t seem to be affected by a counterpart to writers’ block. Hartness said “you never hear of ‘carpenters’ block.’ Carpenters get up and go to work.”

Lackey said that authors who make their living from writing can’t afford to have writers’ block. She talked about other conditions that might affect her adversely, but for her to say, “I can’t write. I have writer’s block. No!” For writers who “just want words without work,” she replied with [expletive deleted] and dual one-finger salutes. She added that sometimes your subconscious will stop you if you have a character do something stupid or out of character or break the rules of your world. “You may have to rewrite,” she said.

Gail Z. Martin said that there is “no such thing” as writers’ block. “You go to work. Can be you get stuck or need to outline more or rethink the beginning . . . or talk to someone else.” She also thinks about writing-related problems last thing before going to bed and revealed that she would have the answer upon awakening in the morning.

Anya Martin paraphrased Walter Moseley who said to write for two hours a day to build discipline. She also advised to set a deadline for completing your writing project even if no one else does.

Out-of-the-box solutions for writers’ block suggested by the panelists included:

  • Start a new project (Hinds)
  • Read nonfiction and ask “what if” (Hinds)
  • Read a book about writing (Hinds)
  • Look for a conflict (St. Giles)
  • Leave on a cliffhanger (St. Giles)
  • Go back and find out where your story went wrong (St. Giles)
  • Knit your way to a solution or a new character (Harrison)
  • Develop a musical play list that fits your character or setting (Hartness)
  • Talk to a friend about what you may be doing wrong (Lackey)
  • Collaborate with another author (Lackey)
  • Write by hand for different brain connections (Bartolucci)
  • Watch movie trailers (Bartolucci)

Hartwell suggested everyone should read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell about how we make decisions and use what is called intuition.

Anya Martin segued from Hartness’s playlist suggestion and said she listens to instrumental music when she writes. She also suggested that if something in your life is bothering you, get it resolved.

The panelists discussed overcoming fear of failure and writing first drafts without editing. Bartolucci suggested that you figure out when your inner editor is less active. For many, that’s early in the morning when your frontal lobes are quieter. She also noted a key question to ask: “What am I afraid of?”

In response, Gail Z. Martin said don’t judge your first draft by a published novel, which may be a professional’s thirtieth draft. Lackey advised to let go of your work as it’s neither you nor your child.

Author of the article

Amy L. Herring (Louise Herring-Jones) writes speculative fiction, with a preference for historical fantasy and alternate mystery. Her stories, appearing in fourteen anthologies, include “The Poulterer’s Tale” in God Bless Us, Every One—Christmas Carols beyond Dickens (Voodoo Rumors Media, 2019). Amy is a NaNoWriMo co-municipal liaison. She also coordinates the Huntsville (Alabama) Literary Association’s writers’ group. Visit her online at http://www.louiseherring-jones.com.