Gloria Tesch’s “How to overcome Writer’s Block”


Tesch posted this video September 11th, with this lovely comment below it:

Every writer has had writer’s block! Known as a blockage of the mind’s imagination flow.

That’s not actually the definition of writer’s block, but okay. Let’s dive into this.

We open with Gloria sitting on the edge of a dock looking very pretty and vivacious and showing off a truly impressive amount of skin, which I guess is okay because she’s 18 now. She pauses for about two seconds, or just long enough to make it rather uncomfortable, before she gets going and introduces herself. I have to admit that I spent the entire video hoping she would lose her balance and fall into the drink, but that is mostly because I am a bad person. Although the more I watch this video the more I feel like she’s not actually on the dock. I’m not sure why, and it’s probably just a weird lens, but the way it’s shot makes me feel like she’s in front of a green screen with the water added later.

We also have a black mark hanging down in front of the camera lens, which looks kind of like the photographer’s thumb but is probably just the mic. Either way, it’s definitely annoying and unprofessional.

Incidentally, there’s a really good reason why shooting in front of bodies of water is a terrible, terrible idea, and that reason is sound. It’s a little better here than in past videos, but over the water rippling and the wind, Gloria is practically unintelligible.

Gloria explains who she is and that she authored the Maradonia Saga, and gets down to business:

Today I want to tell you how to overcome writer’s block. Now let me tell you how.

Yes. Please tell us how. In fact, you don’t need to introduce the fact that you’re going to explain this, you can just start explaining.

It’s very easy.

Whoa. Hold on. Curing writer’s block is EASY? What have I been doing with my life?

Gloria explains that they’re actually in a peaceful place.

I like to write sometimes, refresh my mind

I’m not sure if she meant that she likes to write HERE, as on, on the dock, which is kind of an interesting choice. There’s something to be said for writing in idyllic locations, but I probably wouldn’t lug my laptop down to a dock, and writing on paper would be horrible because of the constant wind.

Alternately, maybe she just wanted to explain why she’s sitting on a dock.

Gloria explains to us that when she younger, her teacher assigned her a free-write essay, because she was in a writer’s class. Well, that does make sense.

So, I started writing this story, and over time, I came up with this awesome story.

And then you published it and it’s called Maradonia and the Seven Bridges?

And then one day, I had no idea what to write about.

This is writer’s block, you see the blank screen, and you’re just like, URK, what do I do next?

Gloria whips out what she calls her “concept board” and that she discovered it while drawing her story outline.

This actually looks really interesting, and it would be even more interesting if I could see exactly what she’s doing. Holding a posterboard with tiny writing six feet away from the camera is not really conducive to learning.

Well. Maybe she’ll explain?

She does! She explains that you draw a semi-circle and then move from the beginning to the middle to the end. Then in between you write out your storyline of what exactly you want to happen. Okay. So basically, a timeline. Or a plot. Or a basic outline, except it’s on a posterboard in a half-circle format.

Tesch explains that actually she had large chunks of the story unplotted, which doesn’t surprise me, and she filled in those chunks later, which also doesn’t surprise me at all. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad way to do an outline or to write your book, in fact that’s pretty close to my preferred outline method…but you have to be careful of not just thinking, what comes between Plot Point A and Plot Point C? and then coming up with a random side quest that’s unrelated to the actual story just to fill up space. If nothing happens, then don’t put in anything.

So, with this outline, Tesch then sat down with her family and asked them what she should do, and they promptly started sharing ideas for different things that could happen. And…

…it actually came out very nice.

Tesch pauses for a moment, looking as giddy as a schoolgirl and then sets it down, explaining that

It’s actually very well-organized.

Which it might be, but I can’t actually see what’s on it so I don’t know.

Tesch whips out another board with lots of stuff on it that is also pretty unreadable.

She explains that you just “write it all out”. Okay then. Gloria continues that young writers like to stick to chapter one and then write it and edit and edit and eventually you just give up. She has a very clear idea of whether you should follow this path:

What you need to do, is write your entire concept out, and work on it from the beginning to the middle to the end.

This is actually really good advice, and one of the reasons I like things like NaNoWriMo – you should sit down and just start writing and keep at it until you pound out a first draft. Once you have it down on paper, then you have time enough to start the editing process.

Gloria explains that you should find a nice peaceful setting, like the one she’s currently in, and maybe even some nice peaceful music to let your imagination flow. She then gives some positive encouragement, which would be nice if she didn’t sound like she was talking down to a group of preschoolers:

You will find your story soon! It’s meant to be, let your story flow, and don’t just keep developing it and keep re-editing it, that’s the editor’s job!

Which I guess explains the quality of the Maradonia Saga.

You are the author! You must write it all out, and write the entire story, everything you are thinking about, and then it will just come soon, and hopefully soon you will be published!

Holy hell.

Alternately, if you want to do a good job, you may spend years editing, revising, reediting, and then years querying literary agents, and then further years trying to get your book published.
Or if your parents are rich they can self-publish it and you can throw your literary toilet training, to borrow a phrase from swankivy, out for the world to see.

She closes with this gem:

Thank you for listening to my video.

Watching. You watch videos.

Gloria plugs Maradonia, bids us all an affectionate farewell, and flashes another winning smile.

So there you have it folks. How to overcome writer’s block: simply write an outline on some posterboard and then solicit plot ideas from your family. It’s not the worst advice I’ve ever heard, but it’s not that great, either. What if you write an outline and you still get writer’s block? Or what if you’re like me and you only get writer’s block when you’re writing from outlines because you enjoy making things up as you go along and find the act of writing to be an intensely creative process as you discover the story along the way and that creative energy feeds your brain and keeps you going?

Then again, I think the answer is clear: if you’re ever stuck and you don’t know what to do next, just plagiarize a scene from the Bible! It’s in the public domain so you can’t get sued.

Bonus: if you want a chance to win a free Maradonia book or you want to see Gloria Tesch walk the Republican National Convention Runway, there you go.


  15 Responses to “Gloria Tesch’s “How to overcome Writer’s Block””

  1. She just shared this link via Facebook! To quote Joey: “Holy Cow!”

  2. Oh, it was you sharing that link – I just believed for a minute that she actually shared it 🙂 Silly me! Also, Writers Block is not essentially about not knowing what to write. Most writers know their story. Writers Block is more about what you write or writing specifically. You know the story, you know the scene, but every fucking sentence you try doesn’t feel right, doesn’t fit, doesn’t seem to work. After a while the frustration grows into not being able to write at all. And from first hand experience: A fucking chart wont help you there. Not knowing what to write is not Writers Block, that’s just a fuck up in your creativity department. Not being able to write is. And pretty much the only thing that helps, is to writer about whatever comes in your mind. Worked for me at least.

  3. What Colwolf said. Writer’s block isn’t the inability to come up with ideas (though that can certainly plague writers too), so much as finding it difficult to get those ideas down on paper (or Word, whatever) in a way you are satisfied with. All the flowcharts and “concept” won’t help you if your problem is actually turning the story in your head into prose (though such charts can often be very useful for editing and working out your works structure and plotting. Probably the best advice I’ve received about writer’s block is this: (very badly paraphrased from one of my creative writing teachers)

    “Writing is the act of ruining great ideas. It all looks brilliant in your head, but as soon as you get it onto the page you’re aghast at how poorly written it is. You have to give yourself permission to write that awful first draft, because you can revise shit into something good, but you can’t revise a blank page.”

    That, of course, is dependent on actually, you know, revising and redrafting your work. One reason I think it’s a good idea for aspiring writers to start off with shorter fiction (instead of jumping straight into a novel), is that it provides valuable experience not just in writing the initial draft, but in revising, editing and developing into a polished piece. And once you’ve developed a certain level of confidence in your abilities in that area, it’s a lot easier to push your inner critic inside and just write that shitty first draft, knowing that you will be capable of revising it into something good.

  4. Thanks for quoting me.

    You know, I actually thought Gloria’s storyboarding explanation was mostly terrible advice. (Not that that’s surprising, but hey.) Especially that horrible line about “that’s the editor’s job!” No. No, editing is not “the editor’s job.” Editing–the kind that most people get stuck on when they get trapped in the re-editing “omg it’s just not right” stage–is NOT the kind an editor helps you with. And while I understand why some people use outlines, I’ve never done so (successfully) in my life, and I find my stories evolving much more authentically if they develop organically from what’s going on from point A to point B rather than deciding while I’m not in the moment “what’s going to happen” and then externally imposing this onto my characters like they’re puppets. I think outlines are good for organizing your thoughts, especially if you’ve got a complex plot, but her patchwork story construction strategy sure helps explain why everything she writes is so disconnected and why all the characters’ lines, actions, and motivations ring as false as the acting in her book trailer video.

  5. Honestly, there just isn’t a cure for writers block that can be explained away. Like everyone here is saying, sometimes you’ve got your story but you just can’t get it out onto the page without some effort. Plus, I don’t think someone who has never been legitimately published, and who uses such underhanded tactics to publicize her books and knows it, should be giving such advice. Perhaps I’m just railing against bad authors right now (After reading some horrible muck called ‘Hush, hush.’) but I don’t want advice from people who can’t put the actual effort into that obsessive creative process that fleshes out a story. And I agree with Swankivy, an editor is not there to basically rewrite the book for you if its bad, they’re there to point out where you’re getting off track, and give you some red ink to work with. If Gloria’s editor is any indication, someone is missing both of their pointer fingers.

    On another note about writer’s block, it sucks…horribly. What I try to do to avoid it (and this will not work for everybody because we’re too variable to pin down a one size fits all solution) is I start writing several stories at once, all of them different genre, style, characters and so on, that way if I can’t make headway in one story I might be able to make some progress in another while the first is still in its blah phase. I have several methods I’ve invented for myself to cure writers block. They don’t always work out the way I want them to, but its all I’ve come up with so, its what works for me.

  6. I’m pretty much agreeing with others here. I can sometimes come up with the ingredients but I have no bloody idea how to turn them into an interesting story. What I usually try to do is that I work on the problem piece by piece and hope I can come up with some magnificent idea to tie all the loose ends together.

    But I don’t think Tesch’s idea board thing is that good. If you really are in a situation where you can think of ideas or maybe scenes but not the novel as a whole, it’s usually not that wise to try to set them in place with yet. Try a bunch of post-it notes instead, or try one of these newfangled computer things. (obligatory spam link =)

    (…wonder why did she put her name on the boards? I don’t put my name all over my private notes.)

    Also, writing outdoors is plausible, but I can’t imagine myself writing on a pier being scorched by the sun. I have gotten productive stuff done while on a summer cabin, though – indoors.

  7. Even a stick-in-the-mud writer who likes outlining everything before writing (AKA, me) thinks Gloria’s advice is pretty terrible. I still get writer’s block after writing out how the whole story will go. Also, I don’t think posterboards are necessary; I get by fine wtih just a binder and lined paper or a notebook, thank you!
    Although there is some truth behind “don’t go back and edit.” Advice I hear from veteran writers is often “let yourself write a shitty first-draft, then revise.” It’s not bad advice (and I should follow it more often), but her statement about revising being “the editor’s job” makes it sound worse

  8. I feel like there’s no one way to be a writer though. Her method probably works for her (for a given value of “works”) because that’s just how her mind works. It’s not very helpful to suggest this as a cure for writer’s block, only one thing that helps one person. It definitely COULD work but you probably have to play around with it.

  9. Definitely agreed. I have a TON of story ideas, but where it gets difficult to put them down is when I don’t know HOW I want to write them. And really, that’s the thing about writing stories or scripts: ideas are nothing. Execution is what matters. You can have what you think is a cool story idea, but until you actually do something with it, it’s meaningless. How you write it, the settings, the characters, the themes you use, those are what separate your story from others.

  10. Oy, yeah. It’s not really a good idea to make up everything as you go along, and forcing random plot developments when you can’t think of one. I did that for a long time and every story I wrote was grade-A crap, ha ha.

    And saying “Don’t re-edit it, that’s the editor’s job” just doesn’t make sense. Like, at all. The editor corrects grammar and spelling mistakes, and might point out problems (like plot holes) in a story. But they don’t write the damn story for you.

  11. Yeeeeah, writing outlines never does much for my writer’s block. Granted, I do have to write outlines anyway. If I have to make stuff up as I go along, I freeze up and end up with a piece of crap. But most of my writer’s block comes from execution. I have a story that SOUNDS good, but I can’t decide what to do with it. Or, the story sounds good, but as I start writing it, I find a lot of flaws and things that need to be worked out, and fixing that can sometimes be very hard.

    I guess writer’s block is different for everyone, but with that said, it’s probably not the best to advertise a single writer’s block solution as one that works for everyone.

  12. I completely agree. I wrote a novel several years ago using that method. I just sat down and started writing with no idea where I was going. After re-reading it and attempting to edit, I realized I still didn’t know where the story was going but I knew where it SHOULD go…right down the crapper. At best I’ve taken some names and more clever ideas and cannibalized them for use in future works.

  13. I almost thought I was the only one wings it as I go along… I mean, not necessarily ‘wing’ it, but I don’t have everything outlined because I like making things up as I go along. Feels more natural that way

  14. I often plot out the most important parts of a story and then improvise things like conversations, minor scenes, things like that so you get to know the characters better. If I plot everything out I don’t want to write it out again, but if I plot out only the most important parts and how I want to lead up to those parts, then I actually do feel compelled to finish it up.

  15. Honestly, I hate writing outlines—especially when everything has been planned out and the only thing left to do is write. It’s just… makes it less fun to write, and it feels likes it’s a chore. I prefer knowing the beginning and end of a story, and planning out the middle as I write it. It may not be the best way because sometimes I change the plot, which also changes the ending and then I delete the story (it sucks). Yeah… it may not be the best idea for me but ¯_(ツ)_/¯