In a terrific mini Q&A, Lauren Groff (author of the wonderful novel Matrix, whose followup I cannot wait for) says she thinks writer’s block is an “umbrella term for a series of very different pains.”
1. The “fear of imperfection, which can be combatted by a writer carefully training herself to let her work be messy and impermanent.” Groff gets over this by writing longhand and not typing on the computer until she has a good sense of the piece.
2. “Being impatient with your work and not allowing it the time it needs to develop.” (Her teacher, Loorie Moore, told her to “relax” and not rush things and know that nothing is ever wasted.)
3. “The canary toppling over in the coalmine, the way that your work is telling you that you’re going down the wrong path and you need to reconsider some larger issues.” For this she suggests what I call the put it in the put it in the drawer and walk out the door strategy. And while you’re letting it sit, read, read, read:
During that time away, be in your chair every day, but be there by reading everything you can get your hands on, and you’ll find a solution in the hundreds of thousands of words you’ve read.
All of this reminded me of Joy Williams, who had my favorite take on writer’s block: “Perhaps more people should have it.”
See also: “Skip the boring parts”
(Groff interview via Laura Olin.)