The Creative Independent New here?

Danez Smith on writer's block

Do you ever deal with creative blocks? If so, do you have techniques for overcoming them?

I don’t believe in writer’s block. When I’m experiencing what feels like it, I know I need to do one of a few things. The first would be to stop writing and to focus on absorbing art. When I’m not happy with my writing, I know I need to spend more time listening, looking, reading, touching, and tasting other people’s creativity to feed my own.

The other thing I have to do is ask questions: Why am I stuck? Is it the piece? Am I feeling balanced enough in other areas in my life to flouring in my writing? Am I hungry? Am I tired? Am I stable and fed? Am I depressed? Do other things besides writing need attention in my life at the moment? Are the idea and the genre of what I’m working on agreeing with each other? Am I experiencing a road block or a directive to try something else?

Another option is to write through it, to write every ugly, horrible sentence that comes to mind and just work until I find something of value. I am a firm believer that every bit of writing is a necessary part of the process, and I’ve come to trust that on the other side of the “block” is something new and exciting waiting for me.

About the Author

Danez Smith is a writer and performer from St. Paul, MN. They are the author of Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press, 2017), a finalist for the National Book Award, and [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. Smith is also the author of two chapbooks, hands on your knees (2013, Penmanship Books) and black movie (2015, Button Poetry), winner of the Button Poetry Prize. They previously spoke to TCI about poems as conversations.