“If you’ve ever found yourself staring at the blank page all day or cleaning out the refrigerator for the fifth time in a week, just to avoid being taunted by that blasted blinking cursor, then you’ve experienced writer’s block,” says writer Jenna Glatzer in her enjoyable guide to curing the malaise, Outwitting Writer’s Block and Other Problems of the Pen.
The book has many pieces of practical advice, and Glatzer comes across as a reliable friend who has been there, done that, and seen it all. One of the big comforts comes from knowing that the writer’s problems are not alone; yet at times it is strangely disquieting to wonder how many writers are there in their solitary offices trying to make a meager living out of the art. She debunks some popular myths: never write for free (it often helps beginning writers to gain name recognition), write every day (it is alright to take a break) and a few others.
It is also reassuring to learn that many emotions that writers often deal with -- insecurity, self-doubt and yes, jealousy -- are perfectly normal. Glatzer shows how we can use these emotions to better our own writing. At times, the solution to a problem seems long-winded or self-evident (to meet a deadline, pace yourself) but the advice is always well-meant and hits the spot.
The text has many practical pieces of advice: buy yourself a really dirty notebook for any old writing that comes your way (I have tried this one out and love the idea) and a really good pen. Another great one is never to reread your submission after you have sent it to the editor because you will invariably find a stray typo that will be the source of unease for a while. Glatzer gives excellent online references for places where one can find more resources for the beginning and accomplished writer. Also strewn throughout the book are many writing prompts that might help a struggling writer.
For the beginning writer, all this information might seem overwhelming. At times such as these, it is useful to simply have Outwitting Writer’s Block lying around. The book is a great source of support when one is looking for help or comfort in a profession that requires enormous amounts of self-discipline. There are many businesses in which one ventures out alone and needs self-discipline to keep at. Many of the lessons learned from the book could well be applied to self-starters in such businesses.
The best line in Glatzer’s book is her last: “Just as you have read mine, I hope that in the not-so-distant future, I will have the pleasure of reading your words as well.” She leaves one gently reassured, with the feeling that we, too, can make it. It is indeed a trying profession, as many of us writers know, but Glatzer reminds us that we are in it for the love of the writing. Her book shows that the love of the written word often has the “power to change the world” and that it can be nurtured and brought to life even in the most struggling, novice writer. Outwitting Writer’s Block is a wonderful, entertaining resource and belongs in every writer’s library.