Sunday, April 18, 2010

On Writer's Block and Unblock by Pat Marcantel

Every writer I know has trouble writing. ~Joseph Heller

One of the best investments for this writer was the purchase of a funny-looking book/block called The Writer's Block by Jason Rekulak. It fits nicely on a shelf above my computer, easily within arm's reach. The introduction to this blocky gem is a lesson in contrasts:

"There is so much contradictory advice within these pages on writing, I don't think a how-to manual on writing could ever be written. Frederick Forsyth says, 'Write about what you know,' and Ken Kesey says, ' Write about what you don't know.' Isak Dinesen let her characters run wild and take over the story; Vladimir Nabokov refers to his characters as 'guilty slaves.' Ernest Hemingway says talent is a necessity; Gordon Lish says talent is irrelevant. The contradictions go on and on and on."

With the above quoted and hopefully intriguing you, here is my take on the beast of writer's block. Non-fiction is much easier than fiction. In the only book I have ever had published, writer's block wasn't a factor. This is what I've concluded as to why I escaped: my book was on the history of Oberlin, LA, my home town. It was a collection of chapters practically written by the people I interviewed. The main creativity I had to call upon was the beginning and ending chapters, and the structure of the book itself. The rest was making each story as well put-together as I possibly could. Oh, and of course, finding an artist who could illustrate it, an expert calligrapher for the cover and beginning of each chapter, a reliable typesetting company and a publisher was at times daunting.

One thorny problem did appear in the writing. I had to get the "fog" factor cleared up and see that the comprehension level was at that of newspapers--sixth grade. It was drudgery. As one of my sons told me early in the writing: "You're going to have to get rid of these complex and compound-complex sentences! By the end of some of them, I've already forgotten what you were talking about!" (So much for my--I hope-former Victorian style of writing). I soldiered on for four months and sent the book to the typesetting company who then sent it on to the publisher. The Oberlin Chamber of Commerce paid for the publishing. The people of Oberlin and many others in Allen Parish were pleased with Oberlin, the First 100 Years and it went into a second printing.

Other writings of mine are poems, articles and short stories, all based on either experiences from my life or my reading. Some have been published and some have won awards--no not the Pulitzer--just teeny awards but I am thankful for them. They encourage. I have a children's book that is written and 1/3 illustrated. My artist's block is far worse than any writer's block. I currently have two blogs I maintain which are both running commentaries on politics, life and the Lord. These keep me writing almost every day and that's a great thing for any writer. Visit me HERE and HERE.

Any last words? Of course--each a suggestion to overcome WB from that "blocky book": TATTOO, WAITING, SHORT FUSE, HOMELESS, 9/11, SEDUCTION, BAD HAIR DAY...


Artist/Author Pat Marcantel can be found on Facebook and Twitter any day of the week. When she isn't chatting online with friends, she's penning humorous stories that win contests. She's the author of Oberlin: The First 100 Years. If you'd like a copy, contact Pat.


  1. Writer's Block? How about TMS - Time Management Squeeze? Good show, Pat. Chris Baldauf

  2. Great post,Pat!I definitely find it easier following the "write about what you know" aspect.

  3. Liked your viewpoint very much. Fiction writing and I just don't jell at this point. I'm traveling the non-fiction road with much pleasure. Solid post, Pat.

  4. Very interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Thanks for the affirmations, BWG members. Surely we have one of the "bestest" writers' groups in the state--or the country, the world--no, to infinity and beyond.
    (Come on, work with me on this).