Reader’s Question: How do you beat writer’s block?

That blank page can be so intimidating.

Q: What do you do about writer’s block? How do you combat it?*

A: My best strategy for beating writer’s block is preventing it. I try to set myself up for success by being very casual about what I’m going to do. Instead of letting myself think, “Today I must write the brilliant opening scene of this novel, the one that will make the world stop and take notice,” I say things to myself like, “Today I’m going to play around with some openers, see if anything clicks.” This no-stakes writing is what I call zero-drafting. Zero pressure, zero expectations; infinite possibilities.

If a scene isn’t working out, I just skip the parts I’m getting stuck on and write in brackets what I’m going to go back and do later. Like I’ll write: [put in killer description of Lexi here]. Or, to borrow Tayari Jones’s analogy, I give myself permission to “eat the marshmallows first” and skip to the good stuff I feel like writing. (Click here for my earlier post on skipping to the good parts.)

*Question courtesy of the National Writing Project and readers of for the National Day on Writing. Read highlights of the event in this post or listen to me and four other guests talk about the National Day on Writing for the NWP blogtalk radio program here.


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