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Arts & Entertainment

Writing Through Roadblocks

Margaret Atwood

Lesson time 09:38 min

Learn Margaret’s advice for overcoming challenges such as constant interruption, writer’s block, or a narrative problem you can’t figure out how to solve.

Margaret Atwood
Teaches Creative Writing
Learn how the author of The Handmaid’s Tale crafts vivid prose and hooks readers with her timeless approach to storytelling.
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You become a writer by writing. There is no other way. So do it. Do it more. Do it again. Do it better. Fail. Fail better. I think it's a good idea, especially when you're-- you're younger, you keep your hand in by writing something every day. So I recommend it. But it's another of those recommendations that I myself have been unable to follow. I think it's a-- it's a question of being able to improvise your time. You come across these descriptions of how people in the golden age, all of them were men, managed their time. So they got up in the morning. They had this lovely breakfast prepared by somebody else. And then, they went into their oak bookshelved study and sat at a large mahogany desk and they did some writing. And then, someone would come in with a silver tea service and they would have some tea or something. And then, do a bit more writing. And then, they would have a lovely lunch, prepared by somebody else. And that would be cleared away. And then, they would go back and do a bit more writing. And then, they would have a lovely stroll around the gardens, maintained by their gardener. And then they would have some choice friends in for the evening to another lovely dinner prepared by somebody else. So that's not my life. And it's probably not the life of many people that you know. So for that reason, you have to be prepared to be interrupted. [MUSIC PLAYING] A lot of things that-- that-- that interest me involve problem solving. I still paint myself into a corner and then try to figure out how to get out of it. So a lot of it is a bit like that. But it's also, I think, just-- just the process, which has always made me quite happy and involved me quite deeply. I know that it's fashionable in some circles to talk about how much you suffer as a writer. And you do suffer in-- in some ways, particularly if you're delving deep into material that you find painful or that is objectively painful. But I probably wouldn't do it if it was-- if the suffering was greater than the reward. If you're encountering a blockage-- I won't say a block, but a blockage-- there are two things you can do. One of them is go for a walk. This is a well-known, ancient remedy. And the next one is go to sleep. So tell yourself the problem. Go to sleep. When you wake up, you may well have the solution. And another good thing is ironing. Ironing-wise, it's a repetitive manual activity. It's quite conducive to thoughts coming in from the-- the sides, which is what you need when you've hit a block. Discipline, sticking to it, fortitude, grit, get back on the horse that threw you, all those types of things. They are all very well to say, but if the person's problem is that they don't have those qualities. How do you foster them? How do you-- how do you defeat the devils themself, doubt, that are usually the-- the things that are stopping people? It's always better to actually do something. You sit down at the keyboard, pick up th...

The art of powerful storytelling

Called the “Prophet of Dystopia,” Margaret Atwood is one of the most influential literary voices of our generation. In her first-ever online writing class, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale teaches how she crafts compelling stories, from historical to speculative fiction, that remain timeless and relevant. Explore Margaret’s creative process for developing ideas into novels with strong structures and nuanced characters.


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

I enjoyed every second listening to Margaret Atwood. I find her comments and explanations very useful and interesting. Thank you!

Always enjoyed her writing. Listening to her lets me appreciate the elegance of her words.

Ms Atwood is so inspiring. She left me with so many new ideas and perspectives.

I am going to miss each lesson (though I may revisit them). Ms. Atwood teaches and shares her stories with her heart and thoughtfulness. This course is a terrific study in one person's creative process. The many additional links and recommendations in the workbook are valuable. Also enjoyed the community's insights. Thank you!


A fellow student

Honestly, I have to say that Ms Atwood didn't tell me anything I haven't heard a million times before


I had to laugh when Margaret mentioned ironing. I love it mainly because I need a repetitive grounding action to quiet my mind which goes at a million miles per hour. Nice to know she wouldn't give me side eye for mentioning it.

A fellow student

Coming up with ideas is like taking a shit, it's not good to strain. Relax, let it come out when it's ready. Don't force it.

Yong C.

This is amazing, I'm learning to break through my barriers and just free write even if I have to rewrite everything later it's still a massive improvement.

Rhonda W.

Okay, I'm gonna be honest here and say that the link to the original pronunciation of Shakespeare in the workbook, had me swooning over Ben Crystal - what a voice!

Susan T.

I love this class! I have been waiting my whole life for a teacher this good in writing. I am inspired and some of my self doubt is now gone about my ability. The techniques are delicious and I don't want this class to end. P.S. Love the lamps in the background!

Alharbi F.

amazing teacher ! she gives the most important elements to write creativly in very simple way ! she really inspires me to start writing .. Thank you from saudi arabia !

Dale U.

When I started writing I was obsessed with getting it right the first time. I now know to just get it down on paper, laying the foundation so to speak, and deal with fine tuning it later. Margaret's lesson confirms this.

Aldonza G.

I like how practical some lessons are. It encourages me a lot and I have found a lot of tips that are helping me to organize my story better.

Velma B.

I am finding, as I listen to the lessons, that I am jotting ideas and thoughts to create within my novel. Very helpful.