W. asked Elizabeth Gilbert:

How to overcome writer's block?

Elizabeth Gilbert First of all, by not believing in "writer's block". We blithely throw around that term whenever our writing isn't going well — as it is an actual is a medical condition. We diagnose ourselves with writer's block", as if we have come down with a disease. I believe that what we call "writer's block" is usually a misdiagnosis of some actual other emotional problem that you're having. That problem could be one of many real things: Anxiety, self-doubt, self-hatred, extreme competitiveness, alcoholism, depression, perfectionism, existential despair, etc. Those are all real conditions, but "writer's block" is not a real condition. So for me, if I'm feeling blocked, the task is to find out what my real emotional problem is, rather than saying, "Oh well, I have a case of writer's block!" and walking away from the work, like: "Too bad for that!" I'll tell you a secret I've learned: Whenever I think I'm suffering from writer's block, what I'm usually suffering from is actually just boredom. I usually get blocked because I'm bored with my writing, bored with myself. Because writing is often tedious. I'll feel like the work is not going the way I'd like. I feel like I want to do something else with my time that isn't so boring. Now, boredom is not nearly as glamorous and tragic a condition as "writer's block" but boredom is usually what it is. Here's how I get out of it: I remind myself that a great deal of the creative process is about sitting through your boredom. Most people quit as soon as they get bored, because they hate boredom. We romanticize the creative life as though it should always be the best and most exciting thing in the world, but a lot of the heavy-lifting of creativity is just tedious, repetitive work. When I get blocked, I call it my blockage by what it is. I say aloud, "I'm bored. And that's normal." Then I go get the kitchen timer and set it for 20 minutes. You can do anything for 20 minutes. I tell myself to keep going for another 20 minutes, with the reminder that it doesn't have to be exciting or satisfying. And what usually happens — around minute 17 — is that I start to get a tiny bit interested in a sentence that I'm writing. I wake up a little bit. Then I look up, and an hour has passed, and I'm still working. But in order to get back into the flow, I had to lower my expectations that this work is supposed to be fun and satisfying, and remember that — before it can get exciting again — most of it is just plain boring.
Elizabeth Gilbert

About Goodreads Q&A

Ask and answer questions about books!

You can pose questions to the Goodreads community with Reader Q&A, or ask your favorite author a question with Ask the Author.

See Featured Authors Answering Questions

Learn more