The agony of writer’s block

Forget defeat, headaches, past-due bills, the death of your favorite pet duck, the election of a woefully-inexperienced president, a traffic jam when you’re already late, finding out the man/woman of your dreams is already married, running out of iced tea and a check-engine light on your car’s dashboard. Nothing is more agonizing than writer’s block.

Let me take stock. I have a novel and several short stories in the production stage. Currently, I’m about two-thirds done on my rough draft of The Game Show and am about a third into my short story whose name I’d rather not divulge. Both are suspenseful thrillers with characters that seem alive and well.

My problem? I am not sure what to write next.

In my short story, for instance, a man stumbles upon a town that’s not on the map in West Texas and learns, much to his dismay, the locals already know who he is and want to punish him for past deeds. What happens next is something I can’t quite figure out.

Same for the book about a game show where more meets the eye. And, of course, same for the short story about the astronomer who discovers a strange planet and a long short story about a man who buys a gorgeous house at way below its appraised price.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

I think I may need to google “Lois Duncan” and “writer’s block” and see what she wrote about it in The Writer magazine. We’ll see if that helps.

Richard Zowie’s first short story was a very forgettable one, written on a single sheet of notebook paper when he was eight. Scorpions in a lake. Blech. Post comments here or e-mail Richard at

Dealling with ‘The Wildie Syndrome’

Years ago, I was assigned to write a story about a man who’d developed a device that would collect recycled oil and store it, saving local people from having to make a trip to an auto parts store. The article must be no more than 700 words, the editor told me.

So I went and interviewed the guy, five or so questions at hand and explained to him that all I needed were basic answers. We were doing a short article, so we would not be able to run anything more than just the basics.

The man proceeded to talk for about an hour.

His surname was Wildie, and in the other two times I interviewed him, the same thing happened: I’d explain to him about how we had only enough room for the basics. He’d then go on to ramble for an hour or so. The final time I spoke with him, my editor told me not to take too long.

“You do realize whom I’ll be speaking to, right?” I asked. “Even if I try to nudge him forward, he’ll go back and talk on and on and on.”

Occasionally, I still have interview subjects like this. When it happens, I call it “The Wildie Syndrome”.

I’m curious if any other writers have had to deal with this also. One assistant editor I worked with spent three hours doing an interview with a bloviating man, and spent the entire next day just transcribing it with a dictionary at hand…

Richard Zowie is a Michigan-based journalist, columnist, blogger and aspiring fiction writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at