Scott Russell Sanders On “Writer’s Block”

You’ll have to forgive this first quote post as I’m thinking of a quote that I cannot verify. However, it has always helped me and it seems more ethical to share than to withhold.

A writing professor of mine in undergrad once shared something he heard from, I believe, Scott Russell Sanders (an American novelist). Sanders was a panelist at a conference, and a member of the audience asked him a question, saying, “Mr. Sanders, you have written many things. Do you ever get writer’s block, and if so, what’s your secret to getting around it?”

And in response to this, Sanders, allegedly, said:

Writer’s Block? Do truckers get trucker’s block? No. I just get up every morning and get to work.

Now this can sound a little condescending to all of us who struggle to come up with ideas. But I don’t think he meant it like that. For him to be so flippant toward a notion of writer’s block has nothing to do with his privileged connection to the muses, and everything to do with our notion of what writing is.

Writing is not just you sitting around in front of a word document, drinking coffee after coffee until you think of a good idea, and then writing it and–poof–you’re ready to be published. Writing is not so linear or isolated, in fact, writing is recursive and social.

Even if you can’t think of something to write, there is always something you can do to improve your writing. You can edit what you already have, you can re-write past work to kick start new work, you can read a book, copy favorite quotes, analyze how the text works, and read your writing out loud.

One thing I have found particularly helpful in the fight against writer’s block, particular for those working on longer projects, is this: Never stop writing at the end of a chapter or at the end of a section.

I always write the first sentence or paragraph of the next section, even if I don’t end up keeping it, just to help me hit the ground running when I pick writing back up again.

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