Blake Butler Recommends...

I rarely think of myself as “stuck” while writing; more like at an impasse that requires trial and error to break its lock. Maybe that sounds trite, but I think the difference comes from thinking of each word, sentence, and paragraph as constituent parts of a large puzzle instead of a plot with an arc already written in concrete. I’ve always relied on the idea that if I’m bored by my own writing while I’m writing it, it isn’t likely to excite anyone else either.

When I’m writing I’m often tuned in to pay attention to when I think I already know too much. If I feel certain I can too easily predict what’s about to happen—with the action or the language, or both—then I might try cascading off from that: switching out the presumed move for something slightly more disarming, forcing me to reconsider the direction of the prose on the fly. Or I might pretend I already wrote the sentence I expected, like a ghost note, and try to think of what else should come next. There are always endless other moves. Sometimes finding the right one requires leaving your mind behind, right there on the page, to find out what else in you answers back. It’s not a fail-safe, and it might take many spins before you hit, but bringing back a bit of play into the process can be electric, unlocking doors you never knew were there.
—Blake Butler, author of Molly (Archway Editions, 2023)  

Photo credit: Blake Butler