Let's Talk About Writer's Block. Can You Help Me?

I have always smiled at the expression "writer's block," possibly because it is not  something I had to face in any serious way before. I thought writing would always flow naturally from my head and pen. But, in the past few weeks, it seems I am unable to write. Whatever poem I end up writing makes me shake my head. It seems I am wasting paper, time, energy and words. I know fighting it is possibly not the best cure and I wonder if there is a cure. So, if you happen to read this and you have a suggestion, please send it my way! Whatever works for somebody may not work for everyone, but I'd be happy to try. I want to #poem  for real, again. Thanks!


  1. My suggestion would be to set the pen down and concentrate on refilling your head. Art, music, long walks, silly movies -- lots of nature. It's like pulling a muscle. It won't heal if you continue to strain it. It needs rest. Coddle your muse.

  2. Kate is absolutely right. I might cast it in a different metaphor -- kind of a mental palate cleanser -- but the principle is the same. For me, physical or manual tasks of a creative nature are helpful, too, especially working in the garden (there's something about putting one's hands in rich soil that satisfies in no other way).

    Two very technical suggestions (these from a beginner poet to an accomplished one, so take them for what they're worth). First, try some formal exercises (strict meter, strict rhyme, or whatever rules you want to impose on yourself) and see what happens. Even if the effort yields nothing I'd want to keep or show anyone else, the effort itself makes me sharper elsewhere. Another exercise I enjoy is taking a mundane, un-poetic text and altering it to bring out the poetry latent inside: for me that would be its musicality, first and foremost. I suppose you could call this muscle-building.

    My second suggestion is to set yourself a larger poetic project, if you haven't already. You might find the challenge of writing poems to support that project rather stimulating. This, it seems to me, worked for Kenneth Koch in his last major volume, *New Addresses,* where he employs the timeless idea of the ode toward unconventional addressees ("To Tiredness," "To the Italian Language," "To Marijuana") in a way that really freed him from his relentlessly prolific-for-prolific's-sake earlier work. I mention him because he's on my mind, but my point is that there's a real sense of project throughout, and the pleasure of reading it (which was probably also the pleasure of writing it) is seeing where the poet is going to take us next.

    But, do relax and let your subconscious do its vital work. And keep that Moleskine handy for when lightning strikes again (as it surely will).

  3. Dear Kate and Dan, I do appreciate your feedback immensely. Thank you for your suggestions!


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