Bizarre Ways to Deal with Writer's Block (Inspired by Your Literary Idols)
Do you ever suffer from bouts of writer’s block?
Even famous authors feel stuck when writing crucial lines and scenes every now and then. They are only humans, after all, so they also grappled with procrastination, loss of motivation, and dwindling willpower. Otherwise, there won’t be quotes from popular writers that tackle this all-too-common dilemma. A few comforting words we have heard were:
“If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” - M. Atwood
“Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It's a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.” - P. Rudnick
These inspirational messages sound great, but what if these quotes about overcoming writer’s block don’t do the trick? Perhaps, you need to try unconventional antidotes or radical methods of intervention. So the next time you get stuck at the first sentence or poetic line, try to get inspiration from your literary heroes.
Here are five weird yet effective ways your favorite authors beat writer’s block and managed to create their masterpieces.
Put on a funky hat while you write.
Producing more than 60 children’s books, it is hard to believe that Theodor Seuss Geisel, popularly known as Dr. Seuss, ever ran out of ideas. Search online for ways Dr. Seuss got unstuck when faced with writer’s block, and you will find several articles that say the same thing: he would wear a hat to get inspired. There were no specific designs mentioned, but rumor has it that Seuss kept them in a secret cabinet. We can only guess how the hats look: as quirky as the author. So, try putting a hat on whenever you are at a loss for words. It doesn’t even have to be a hat. It could be a snazzy silk costume, an outlandish wig, or makeup that’ll get your writing tenor on whenever you glance at the mirror in the corner. Who knows, this might lead to another children’s classic, like The Cat in the Hat, or a mystery novel, like The Secret Window.
Write in bed.
Edith Wharton, Truman Capote, and James Joyce reportedly wrote in bed. Aside from apparently needing the support of their beds to get their creative juices flowing, these brilliant word weavers making a habit of writing in bed suggest that beds are counterparts of tiled bathrooms that trigger Eureka moments. As sitting is the common way most writers pour their thoughts on paper (or Word document), a few writers like to challenge conventions or try novel ways to seduce their muse. William Wordsworth, for instance, took this practice to the extreme by writing his poems by hand in bed - in total darkness.
Are you going to be the next famous author to join the lying-down-while-writing club?
Write in one's birthday suit.
Dare to write naked? There’s no harm in trying. Err, perhaps it’s best to do it in the comfort of your own study or bedroom. Victor Hugo, the French author famous for masterpieces such as Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame), had a penchant for writing au naturel (in the naked state). The reason behind this peculiar practice was pretty simple: he wouldn’t be tempted to go out of his study room without completing his task. According to biographers, Hugo completed the novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame before the deadline, so this practice evidently worked for him.
Writing with the same number of pencils nearby.
Many great writers were fond of using pencils. Besides the ease of erasing a word or a sentence when needed, the welcome break when sharpening the pencil, and the feel of the writing tool in your hands, some authors tend to believe that using pencils helps woo their muses. Take it from John Steinbeck, who wrote many of his drafts in pencil. Though that doesn’t sound odd, you will be surprised by the exact number of pencils he kept on his desk: twelve. Maybe to signify the number of months in a year or the number of muses he was wheedling? We don’t know for certain. What we know for sure is that Steinbeck won a Nobel Prize for his writing. Something tells us that 12 is the lucky number of pencils to place on your desk for creative regeneration.
Write while standing.
The general public and aspiring authors are curious about their idols’ writing rituals. This is why books like Odd Type Writers: from Joyce and Dickens to Wharton and Welty, The Obsessive Habits and Quirky Techniques of Great Authors and Daily Rituals: How Artists Work have a market. One of the frequently cited authors with quirky habits is Ernest Hemingway. This master of dialogue behind Hills Like White Elephants and The Old Man and the Sea preferred to stand while writing - a work routine he used to step into a creative mindset. Since modern standing desks were not yet invented during his time, the American novelist used a makeshift standing table to place his typewriter. Based on the internet, the author wrote at least 31 books, which make us highly consider his method.
Do you know of other famous authors who crush or cure their writer’s block in bizarre ways? Or do you have success stories to share to fellow writers who struggle with creative dry spell? Write to our editor about it, and we might feature your stories in our next issue.