THOUGHTS ON WRITING: The Struggle with a Blinking Cursor

I do all of my writing on the computer, so the rapid clicking noises my fingers make on the keyboard are the sounds of progress, a story in the works. That is, until the so-called “writer’s block” strikes, forcing my cursor to a blinking halt.

The most recent time it happened was while I was working on THE BUTTERFLY’S DAUGHTER, which is now in revisions and set to be published May 2011. The specifics of my struggle are not as important as what my husband said to me while I was venting my writing frustrations to him. He reminded me that my temporary storyline roadblock, was just part of the process I endure with every novel; a metamorphosis of sorts that I must go through for my story to emerge into what it is intended to be.

Looking back, I see now that I was much like the monarch butterfly I was detailing in my story. This period of writer’s block was similar to the chrysalis stage when the caterpillar quietly transforms into the beautifully painted winged insect. The struggle lasts for days, but soon enough, I emerge renewed, refocused and ready to return to the creative process.

Before the creativity returns, the period is a source of temporary anguish and frustration. American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne acknowledged this struggle when he once said,
“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”
There are a few things I do to move beyond the writer’s block. I sometimes call my sister whom I lovingly refer to as “my muse.” I can talk out a scene with her to get inspired again. I have also done this countless times with my husband, another special person whose conversation opens up my storytelling vision.

Sometimes I just have to step away from my work. Immerse myself in something else to temporarily forget about the book. Taking time to garden, swim, walk the beach and step outside of my writing cave is often just what I need to feel inspired again.

When I am not writing, I am reading. I like to revisit the classic works of my most favorite writers when I need inspiration-- Charles Dickens, William Blake, Henry David Thoreau, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, John Steinbeck and Edith Wharton. Sometimes, I’ll re-read southern classics by Marjorie Rawlings, Eudora Welty, or Tennessee Williams. And I also find modern poetry to be inspiring as well.

My final tip-- don’t ignore your dreams. The images and words provided by the subconscious mind can be a great source of creativity. I trust my dreams, and I often feel most creative and ready to write first thing in the morning.

Whatever you do, just don’t dwell on your frustrations or fears during a state of writer’s block. Instead, take heart knowing that you will find your way back to your story again.

What things do you do to move beyond moments of writer’s block?


  1. Hi Mary Alice,

    This is wonderful. I've often thought the phrase "writer's block" creates more anxiety than is necessary. Maybe we should call it "writer's cocoon." A time to connect more deeply within by resting, walking, being with nature and loved ones, and letting the waves recede, as they naturally do, before the next cycle.

    All best,

  2. Mary Alice, I am an artist and painter, not a writer, but I go thru the same 'block' sometimes...I do exactly what you mentioned...I leave my studio for awhile and get away from my work in progress and experience other loves of mine such as reading, yoga, nature...and I talk to my husband for his advise...even a bubble bath helps me!...when I feel refreshed I return to my canvas with a fresh eye...You never disappoint us Mary Alice and when you experience 'the block', just remember that all creative people go thru it...you are wonderful!

  3. Hi from the Charleston Co. Library...we are doing a weekly facebook post on what locals are reading. Would you be willing to share what you are reading on the CCPL facebook page? Please email and I can explain further. Becky
    melanconb@ccpl.org or 805-6951


Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing your thoughts. Learn more about my books on Facebook and my website www.maryalicemonroe.com.

All the best,
Mary Alice