When I get stuck these days, the first thing I do is be gentle with myself and stay calm. I remind myself that I had times like these, when I feared I would never write anything again. And sometimes those times were uncomfortably long. But, I wrote again.
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“I read an interview with the writer and journalist Lawrence Wright around ten, perhaps fifteen, years ago. Wright was asked what he did when he got ‘knotted up’ during the day, and he said that he would go for a run.
“I tell my creative writing students this: No one can write the story you have inside of you. No one.
“Let’s agree writing is one of many creative art forms, and that everything—from the way someone crosses the street, twirls their hair, rides a subway—can be described as an art. That said, when I’m in a rut I like to get uncomfortable.
“The thing I need to do escapes me. Sit still and write. Get up and move. Prepare the meal and eat it. Consider sentences. Write sentences. Shatter sentences. Live inside an orifice wet with silver. Eliminate caffeine. See acupuncturist. Make a list of gratitude. Sit in the black morning.
“A few years ago, after decades of vigorously producing books in various genres, I lost all desire to write. My first creative passion was drawing and when silence took over, I began filling up notebooks and drawing pads with line drawings.
“After losing my sight, I found comfort in my favorite movies, ones I had seen so many times I remembered the pictures that accompanied voices and soundscapes. Returning to Rain Man, Stand By Me, and Jaws with only my ears, I was surprised how much of each story remained intact.
“For almost the entire period of the ten years I worked on my debut novel, Radiant Fugitives, my writing sessions have started the same way, listening to the same piece of music: ‘Libertango’ by Argentine composer As
“When I get stuck in my writing, I walk away from it. I write while standing at my desk, so all I do is turn on my heels and leave. Sometimes, I perform my departure from my desk. I tiptoe or do a mock walk of disdain, or mimic RuPaul on a catwalk (as if I could!).
“When I initially considered the question of what it is I do when I feel stuck in my writing, I felt stuck. Do I ever hit a wall? Then I remembered: all the time! It’s just that my tricks to overcome sudden inertia are now so ingrained that I usually forget I’m in a temporary slump.