Writer’s Toolbox

Author Q&A

Here we present our exclusive collection of Q&As with a long list of illustrious authors.

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Mary Glickman

Mary GlickmanMary Glickman is the author of novels such as Home in the Morning and One More River.

What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?

First thing, I do not call it “writer’s block.” Words have power. I chose not to believe “writer’s block” exists. What I have is periods of “now I am writing” and periods of “now I am not writing.”
When periods I am not writing become dreary, some kind of second-hand creative catharsis can jump-start me. A film of melting beauty, an exhibition of stunning artwork, always the opera—especially if it’s Italian—but evocative music of any kind works as well. Usually, tears flow and the desire to create something beautiful also becomes paramount. That something may start out as utter dreck, but if I have a bit to work with, at least I’ve begun. The not writing spell is broken. Then the trick is to resist being intimidated by not writing into writing out of boredom rather than desire. Even the shaping of dreck has to engage on some level. Forced writing has led me down many a dead end and then deepened my frustration. Sometimes, it’s good to acknowledge that patience may be required until the right idea strikes. Wine helps pass the time. 

What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?

If I am engaged with what I’m working on, I don’t need prompts. I just need to get up in the morning. I do like quiet these days so I can assemble my thoughts. Complete quiet. Then once I get going, I could write in a foxhole.

If I find myself staring at the screen “until drops of blood appear on my forehead,” à la the late Gene Fowler, I try to identify what I’m flummoxed on. Maybe it’s a piece of dialogue that’s going nowhere or finding where to end an episode or how to punch it up. I’ll read one of my favorite authors who excels at dialogue or action for instruction. That works.

Getting up and taking a brisk walk helps. At times, I seek out the company of others and look in their language and occupations for something to pounce upon and take home in my teeth.

Procrastination on other responsibilities, letting them pile up to a huge mound, makes continuing to write look infinitely more attractive than stopping and dealing with them.  

What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?

I’ve only ever received valuable advice on writing once. It’s all the wisdom on writing I’ve got and the only advice I dispense. It was given to me by Garr Lange, a playwright and musician I knew decades ago. He said: “Listen to the voice. The voice never lies.” I followed that advice and realized it’s true; the voice knows all. When the voice goes dissonant in your head, you don’t have to know why. The voice knows why. Don’t torment yourself with technical analysis. Just find the part where the voice last flowed and cut what follows. Then step back and let the voice sing.