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November 12, 2006


OK, here are some things that have worked for me over several books, including Performance Talk (

Develop a ritual. Ernest Hemingway always sharpened seven new pencils before beginning work for the day. He never quit until he had the opening for the next chapter in line.

Nurture your nature. If you're a lark, get up early and work. If you're a night owl, sleep late and work into the wee hours.

Develop some don'ts. Don't answer the phone. In fact, don't let it ring or blink. Don't check email. Don't allow interruptions. When I had kids at home, they knew that when the study door was open, they could come in. When it was closed they stayed outside unless something life-threatening needed my attention.

Work in big enough blocks of time. For most of us that means 90 minutes or so at minimum for most of us.

Take breaks. When you've worked a block, decompress by working at returning calls and then take a real break, different physical position, perhaps different location. I do housework a lot for this, or walk the doggies.

Set goals, targets, or milestones. When Harold Robbins was writing, he dictated in the morning and edited transcripts in the afternoon. His goal was 5000 edited words per day. My goals are more modest. For most of us, small wins work best.

Reward yourself for achieving targets. Wee bits of chocolate and small dishes of ice cream work for me.

Resolve not to worry if the housework, the laundry, the shopping and the cooking and the blog don't get done. What's a dirty toilet beside a masterpiece of deathless prose, anyway? Seriously, get your spouse or friends to chip in on the daily stuff that needs to be done and don't worry when they can't keep their commitments. Your job is to make us wise.

Get enough sleep and exercise. Walking is good because its gentle rhythms are good for creativity. Be sure to take a digital recorder or notepad to capture the good ideas you'll get.

Relax. We all know you're going to do a great job and we're going to brag about knowing you when you were working on this book.

Thanks for the pointers and encrouagement, Wally!


I feel for you. I know exactly what you are going through. When this happens to me there are three things I do and one of them always brings me out of my funk.

First Idea:

I go to the beach - by myself - for an entire day. I take a cooler with a sandwich and some bottled water. I also take a beach chair. I sit and stare at the horizon for hours. I think about nothing. I just sit and try to stay “in the moment”. Occasionally I get up and walk up and down the beach.

Generally I just clear my head.

Second Idea:

Do something spontaneous with a close friend. Hop on a flight to Vegas for the weekend. Drive down the coast to watch the sunrise. Go to a college football game.

The key is that it is unplanned and it is active. It should take your mind off of everything because of the stimulation involved in adjusting to the last minute activity.

Third Idea:

Sensory overload. This used to be easier when I was younger but I still do it from time-to-time.

I stay awake for as long as possible. Sometimes two or three days straight. (Note: Coffee is ok but unnatural stimulants are not.).

The key is to get yourself tired – very tired. You want to wear down your senses until your nerves are raw. Then sleep for as long as possible. Get as much rest as you can.

When you wake up, you will be refreshed and your mind will be “reset”.

Ultimately, the third idea should be a last resort. Kind of a “hard reset” for your system. These are the three things that have always worked for me when I cannot get the creative juices flowing.

Hope this helps.

David - thanks, wow, you much have lots of experience with writer's slump! I like the beach idea quite a lot.

Hang in there lady. I don't know about you but when the dreaded Block strikes, I find doing something mundane while thinking about it helps me. Dishes for some reason ( and my bride is happy about this) do the job. This has worked ever since I was a kid.

The lawn gets mowed more often when I'm writing than when I'm not. This is a problem in Chicago in the winter so will have to come up with some other chore, but you know what I mean.

On the other hand, it's not like you're not doing ANYTHING for corn's sake....don't be too hard on yourself.

Wayne - thanks. Hmmm, I think the beach sounds better than doing the dishes.......

It's interesting to read how we all deal with this!


I do have lots of experience with slumping but it's only b/c I write quite a bit.

The more I write, the more I frequently need to take time off. I think it's more burn out than a slump.

Some days I just can't stand to look at the computer.

These tips also help me when I'm trying to solve a difficult problem and I get sick of thinking about it. I try one of those three tips and magically the answer just appears.

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