The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

Writer’s Block is a Tricky Little Bitch

Dear Michael Ondaatje –

I love your writing, but right now, I do not like you at all. For the last week I feel as if I’ve been starting at the computer screen, in some vapid attempt to figure out what the hell I want to write. I’ve been angry at myself for not just sitting down to type. I’ve been frustrated that in all the events of the last week – school ending, students graduating, surgery – I’ve really not placed anything of merit on the page. Sure, I’ve tweeted a bunch, written a few emails here and there, and jotted down a few notes for maybe some future pieces, but writer’s block grabbed my brain, and twisted it dry like a wet towel.

And now I see this quote by you, and it aggravates me to no end. But hey, you did your job, right? I’m writing something. I suppose you proved your point. This must be my “other scene.” Thanks. Yep. I appreciate that.

That being said, is it really that easy? Do you really just move onto another scene, and not worry about what you were trying to say? You’re an author of novels, not poems, not short stories, not haikus. Other scenes take lead-ups, and outlines, and knowledge of events. Right? Don’t they? Do you have that much of an understanding of your own plots that you’re able to simply scene jump?

Writer’s Block is a tricky little bitch. Each year I just tell my students that when they can’t think of something to write, they should write the line I cannot think of what to say over and over again, until their brain gets so angry with them that it kicks out some words. For some of them, this works really well. It doesn’t do the same for me. It never has. It’s a do-what-I-say-not-as-I-do tactic. For me, I just have to wait it out. I have to simply stare at the empty page until I feel as if I can improve it.

So, Michael, how do you do it? How do you just go on? Is there a trick I should be following?


Just Another Writer With No Words To Write

About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

3 comments on “Writer’s Block is a Tricky Little Bitch

  1. The Running Son
    June 24, 2013

    Christopher, you are far too kind. Let me take that Baton.

    Dear Michael. I haven’t read a word from you, except for your universal quik-fix of the blank slate question. As a writer, I’d like to think, if you don’t understand on a personal level, you could at least fake empathy, act like you know. You may have the ultimate answer–pushing through–but you miss the point: the essential human experience of facing and processing that blockage is part of building the writing voice.

    You bunny-hop on to the next chapter, Michael. You have the luxury. We will face the void, and come out empathetic of that very creative struggle which makes all good writing vital.

    • Christopher Margolin
      June 24, 2013

      Well stated. The author we are responding to is best known for The English Patient.

      • The Running Son
        June 24, 2013

        Oh… a sensitive fellow then. I’ll forgive a sensitive fellow an otherwise unforgivable indiscretion. Since the screenplay was brilliant, he is probably going to heaven. There, I will ask him what he would do with writers block on the 3rd line of a haiku, and I would demand forgiveness for the confusion visited on every impassioned 16 year old poet that stumbled on his tweet–those young that invariably, and by design, can not sort out their torrential angst-ridden insides.

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This entry was posted on June 24, 2013 by in COMMENTARY and tagged , , , , , , .

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