From Margaret Atwood's MasterClass

Writing Through Roadblocks

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.

Topics include: "Be Prepared to Be Interrupted • Writing Is Problem Solving • Illuminating the Dark • Get Better by Doing the Work • Be Kind to Yourself"

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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.

Topics include: "Be Prepared to Be Interrupted • Writing Is Problem Solving • Illuminating the Dark • Get Better by Doing the Work • Be Kind to Yourself"

Margaret Atwood

Teaches Creative Writing

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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.

Reviews

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

Loved Margaret Atwood's teaching style - I have been an avid speculative fiction reader and am working on my own speculative fiction novel...her lessons will surely help!

This class has inspired me to start seriously pursue my writing, which when shared with my friends, causes them consistently to ask why I don't publish, at least in an online blog format. Margaret, thank you for an entertaining an engaging class. You've made a difference for me. - Geoff

She is masterful, insightful, and, like a true storyteller, created lesson after lesson in an engaging way. I look forward to coming back again.

I am absolutely fascinated by the insights that Margaret Atwood gives her students. So much of what she says resonates deeply and after listening intently and taking notes, I will now start the course again at a slow pace and work through the workbook. Thank you for a wonderful class! There is much wisdom to gain from an experienced author such as Margaret.

Comments

Suzanne B.

My breaks come with the dog I walk at least 4 times a day. She's a wonderful companion, great personality, inquisitive and smart. She has given me lots of advice on my writing, like let's go for a walk. She's helped me through many a blockage.

A Learner

this lesson was surprisingly helpful, since I don't really get writer's block

Nancy R.

Write! Fail! Write better. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to write whenever they wish; so, do what you can with the time you have and prepare to be interrupted. Get better by continuing to write and take a break when you need to. Such great advice. Thank you, Margaret!

Martha

Be prepared to be interrupted. Improvise. Two things I struggle with. I love her encouragement to write, be better, and also to fail better.

Lyndsey J.

This lesson made me happy, be kind to yourself was especially important for me to hear, I get headaches and migraines quite easily ever since I was 6 or 7 years old, and staring at a screen focusing on words tends to trigger them if I am not careful. Taking breaks, going for walks, especially when some place new has always inspired new things in my imagination, my book that I am currently working on is based off of an imaginary world that I have been mentally constructing since elementary school, and many of the locations in that world are based off of real world locations that I have either seen or heard about. The analogy of walking into a dark room and illuminating it, does make sense, granted that is how some portions of my story is relayed literally, but for me it is also different my imagination its almost like watching a movie or being present in a dream its all there at once and I have trouble finding the right way to describe the scenery or the character I want the reader to see. I have found that writing whenever I feel like it or whenever I am frustrated about not having written anything has kept me progressing even when I have to go back and redo parts, it has kept me moving forwards even if it's just one sentence at a time. I love how Margaret continues to put things into such relatable ways that even someone like me can keep going and improving things in my own story with every lesson, I can only imagine where it will lead. ^-^

Glenna A.

I felt that this lesson came directly from the heart of a real human writer... not a person trying to be the aloof, famous author who has made it and wants to be worshiped. These honest admissions of, "I don't have a particular time , not necessarily disciplined... , get blockages and take a nap, go for a walk", gave me a kind of acceptance and encouragement that said, "you don't have to be the strange, esoteric, secretive personality from another planet to be a writer." That speaks pages and chapters to me. It is the fear of not being good enough, or special enough that keeps me from the word. She demystifies the fear that writing is out of reach. She is successful and yet human, not outside the possibility for me to be a writer as well. I felt a deep shift through this session.

A fellow student

She is amazing. "Writing is to enter in a dark room with a lamp and light up things that are already there". So well said!

Karman L.

Thank you Margaret. I watched this session four times at least. It really hits the spot right now. So many words in the head its been hard to know what to let though the brain river weir. Better the words are there than not. I love your work and your lessons and will always look forward to what is next in this course. Finding our ways through and around barriers is as important as anything else to do with writing and life. Thank you for sharing your experience. In the end it's just a barrier NOT A WALL.

Rebecca B.

Thank you for taking the time to do this writing series, Margaret Atwood. You are delightful in your presentation and easy to follow with your instructions. I am really enjoying your class.

Craig H.

"Be prepared to be interrupted" is perhaps the most practical advice of this lesson. Even if I lived entirely alone, independently wealthy and waited on hand and foot, something will come along to demand my attention. Since that is not my lot, and probably not anybody's, the sources of interruption are myriad. And they are necessary - I try not to think of them as the enemy. Gotta have a life, after all, before I can write about one. "Be kind to yourself" is fighting with that advice for first place.