Sunday, April 28, 2013

John McPhee on overcoming writer's block

In the April 29 New Yorker, John McPhee, the nonpareil purveyor of "creative nonfiction," as highly literary explanatory journalism is often called, writes a long piece about multiple drafts, copy editing and writer's block, and the best ways to overcome that last. Among his suggestions:

"You are writing, say, about a grizzly bear. No words are forthcoming. For six, seven, ten hours no words have been forthcoming. You are blocked, frustrated, in despair. You are nowhere, and that’s where you’ve been getting. What do you do? You write, ‘Dear Mother.’ And then you tell your mother about the block, the frustration, the ineptitude, the despair. You insist that you are not cut out to do this kind of work. You whine. You whimper. You outline your problem, and you mention that the bear has a fifty-five-inch waist and a neck more than thirty inches around but could run nose-to-nose with Secretariat. You say the bear prefers to lie down and rest. The bear rests fourteen hours a day. And you go on like that as long as you can. And then you go back and delete the ‘Dear Mother’ and all the whimpering and whining, and just keep the bear."


1 comment:

  1. A little off topic, but a nice interview in the Sunday Sun-Times today about you and the new Steve Martinez novel. From an old acquaintance of ours, even though she is now listed as "free lance". I hope you don't suffer any writers block on the teased fifth novel. See on Saturday at the north branch!