Beat writer’s block

Even after writing 355 books over a span of 50 years, Isaac Asimov said he never experienced writer's block. His trick? Working on several projects at a time. So if he gets bored of one he simply starts working on another.

Fortunately I’m never without several projects in mind so that if I wake up in the morning, I’m sick and tired of what I’m doing, I do something else.

Haruki Murakami practiced something similar:

I have been writing fiction for more than thirty-five years at the time of this book’s writing; yet I have never experienced what is commonly known as ‘writer’s block.’ Wanting to write but being unable is unknown to me. That may make it sound as if I am overflowing with talent, but the actual reason is much simpler: I never write unless I really want to, unless the desire to write is overwhelming. When I feel that desire, I sit down and set to work. When I don’t feel it, I usually turn to translating from English. Since translation is essentially a technical operation, I can pursue it on a daily basis, quite separate from my creative desire; yet at the same time, it is a good way to hone my writing skills.

Austin Kleon also practices this habit. He calls it “productive procrastination.”

Kelton Reid: I like that. You talk about ‘productive procrastination’ quite a bit, and you’ve written about it. Do you have some best practices for beating procrastination yourself?

Austin Kleon: Yes. The best thing to do is to practice what you said, productive procrastination, which means have one or two or three things going all at the same time. When you get sick of one thing, you can work on the other thing because you hate the other project so much. Then when you get sick of project two, you can move back to project one. You have to work, but you basically use procrastination as a way to get things done. >

I recommend the same advice to people who want to read more. It’s much easier to read three or four books at once than it is to read one because when you’re bored of one, you can just pick up another. But if you are only reading one at a time and get bored, well what you do is stop reading.


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