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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Roberta Allen

Roberta AllenRoberta Allen is the author of the novel The Dreaming Girl.

What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?

Writer's Block is what happens when the conscious mind competes with the unconscious and both try to occupy the same space at the same time.(See my book Fast Fiction). I've used my Energy Exercises for years to free many writers. Focused Attention on a specific topic with a timer set for 5 minutes works. My students groan before doing these exercises. Groaning is good. They groan because for those few minutes they are forced out of their "daily" minds into areas that are not predictable. These exercises are not "free writes." When your attention is focused, the censor, not the writer, is blocked. Writing immediately when the timer goes off brings energy to the surface while the topic forces your mind away from yourself (the self that says "I can't do this," "I don't like this," etc.). It doesn't matter if you "like" the topic. In fact, it's usually better if you don't. There's lots of energy in "Not Liking." And in fear. There's great energy in fear. Writers get stuck when they think too much. Writing is a process. You need to open the door and let it out.

What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?

It doesn't matter what topic you use to write, it's choosing one and focusing that counts. The topic may be visual. verbal, or both. Since I started using projected images at The New School, along with verbal labels years ago, many people have used this method.

Some of the most interesting stories I recall resulted from these prompts:
  • Write about a lie.
  • Write about a cough.
  • Write about a broken promise.

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

The words "Just do it!" come to mind. My father often said those words to me when I was afraid. He wasn't talking about writing. He only went as far as third grade. It's still the best advice I've ever had.