Writer’s Block

Amy Tan

Lesson time 11:42 min

Amy explains why you have writer’s block and how to get out of it.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Causes of Writer’s Block • Limit Distractions • Create Rituals • Exercise: Write Amy’s Premise


[MUSIC PLAYING] CREW: We're curious to know, do you make a habit of writing every day? This is something that our members are really curious to know. - I should lie. Yes, absolutely. You have to write every day. If you're not writing, you should be thinking about your story. The last thing you think about before you fall asleep is your story. Oh, you were recording? [MUSIC PLAYING] Here's a universal truth about writers. When you get writer's block, you think, I don't have what it takes. This other writer, they just barrel through page 1 to 300. They're just writing away, and if you're a true writer, it just happens that way from start to finish. They never have to throw away pages. They never have to be blocked and not know where they're going. That's not true. I don't know of anybody it has never happened to. You know, if you want to go to a-- hear interesting conversations, go to a party with a bunch of writers, and ask them about writer's block. Everybody has it. Let me assure you, I've had writer's block hundreds, thousands of times, so you're not alone. [MUSIC PLAYING] I've heard people refer to writer's block as the blank page, and they don't know what to put on that page. Everything is just nothing. But I don't think that's what writer's block is. I think writer's block is too many things in your head. It's as though the room is filled with floating flotsam and jetsam of all the possibilities of what you could put in the story and all the things that you've written that you think are terrible. And it's all there, and you have to deal with it, and you're trying to write the next page. The next page is a jumble. And so what you need to do is get rid of the jumble. The other reason you get writer's block-- and I've verified this scientifically-- is that you have written yourself into a corner. And the corner has no way to get out this way or that way, meaning you have limited yourself, because, probably, you came up with an idea that you wrote to and didn't allow yourself the freedom to move forward. So it's a problem with the narrative, where you got stuck. Writer's block can also be that you got to a point in your story, and suddenly, you don't like the character. Or the character now doesn't allow you to move ahead. What do you do with that? Before you think, I'm not a writer. I'm obviously not good enough to be a writer, because I can't think what to put down on the page, you are a writer. Writer's block is actually proof that you are a writer, because you care enough. You've invented enough complexity, probably, and you have too much, and you don't know where to go with it. Writer's block can settle in from when you first sit down to write again. Each day, it seems like it's new. [MUSIC PLAYING] Writer's block is also distraction, not just the things in the room in your mind, but actual things going on in your life-- your kids, your dog got sick, your-- you know...

About the Instructor

Amy Tan was 33 before she first explored her voice as a fiction author. A few years later, her debut novel, The Joy Luck Club, spent 40 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. Now she’s showing you her approach to the challenges and joy of self-discovery through writing. Learn how to craft compelling beginnings and endings, find your voice, and embrace your emotional memory to bring powerful narratives to life.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Amy Tan

The celebrated author shares her approach to voice, story, and the craft of bringing narratives to life from beginning to end.

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