Susan Isaacs

Susan IsaacsSusan Isaacs is the bestselling author of several novels including Compromising Positions, Close Relations, and As Husbands Go.

What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?

After thirteen novels, one hundred op-eds and book reviews, and several screenplays, I feel comfortable assuring you that a case of writer's block that lasts longer than two weeks has little or nothing to do with writing and a great deal to do with whatever sturm und drang is going on in your life or psyche.

Those first two weeks, though, a block can be a productive period. Sometimes your non-conscious mind needs time to alter the outline of your work or create a new character or even rewrite the conclusion you'd been so sure of. Then it will tap your consciousness on its shoulder and say, "Hey, I have some revisions."

On the other hand, if you're in your third week of a mindless computer games or rewatching Season 1 of Dexter, it’s pretty clear you have issues. Here are some ways to get out of the clutches of the old-time-wasting devil.
  • Get help. Talk to a therapist, a wise and benevolent friend, or your rabbi (in the literal or metaphoric sense)
  • Writing is a job. You have to go to work regularly or the work simply will not get done. If you're working full-time, set aside a couple of weeknights and part of the weekend in which to work. Otherwise, you should be working at least five days a week for at least two to three hours. Remember this: if you didn't show up for work, you'd be fired. If you don't show up for your writing work, you lose, too. You won't be a writer. 
  • Many writers find it impossible to resist the siren call of the Internet. Therefore, turn off your wireless. Set specific times to check your e-mail and did not look at it until those times. If the computer is still exerting too great a pull on your mind or heart, turn it off, grab a notebook and pen, and go write in another room or at the public library. I would avoid Starbucks: you'll waste too much energy on trying to look like a writer to actually do much good writing.

What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?

If you're stuck for beginning sentence or a line of dialogue, say it out loud. Translating thought into speech works wonders. I don't know why, but it somehow focuses the brain. There's a reason why so many people find talk therapy and the rite of confession so efficacious. 

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

Well, I wasn't so young when I got this advice, but it works. My friend, the author Patricia Volk, suggested a great way to get back into your work groove and the mood of the piece you’re writing.  Start each session by reading over what you wrote the day before.