Interesting article about Writer's Block - "Draft No. 4" by John McPhee

I came across this article, and really enjoyed it. I though others might find it useful.

“Draft No. 4” by John McPhee, The Writing Life, New Yorker Magazine, 22 Apr 2013

In part, in response to a student complaining of writer’s block:

“Dear Joel: You are writing, say, about a grizzly bear. No words are forthcoming. For six, seven, ten hours no words have been forthcoming. You are blocked, frustrated, in despair. You are nowhere, and that’s where you’ve been getting. What do you do? You write, ‘Dear Mother.’ And then you tell your mother about the block, the frustration, the ineptitude, the despair. You insist that you are not cut out to do this kind of work. You whine. You whimper. You outline your problem, and you mention that the bear has a fifty-five-inch waist and a neck more than thirty inches around but could run nose-to-nose with Secretariat. You say the bear prefers to lie down and rest. The bear rests fourteen hours a day. And you go on like that as long as you can. And then you go back and delete the ‘Dear Mother’ and all the whimpering and whining, and just keep the bear.”

There are numerous other insightful examples - enjoy!


The whole book of the same title is excellent. Recommended. I especially liked this one:

(Although most writers do not have the luxury of his relationship with The New Yorker. That part made me jealous.)


I agree! Oh, to have had the learning experience of being “Goulded” repeatedly! I loved his examples of using a dictionary vs. a thesaurus to find the right word - definitely a workflow I will add to the tool kit.

I will add this to my TBR list. I wasn’t able to access your link - I’ve exceeded my free access, darn it!

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Here is the complete daft No. 4 from Internet Archive:

Draft No. 4

There are several other McPhee books, lectures and interviews for those who are interested. :blush:

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To all the scaredy-cats living on the writers block, Robin Williams has you covered. Buy, borrow, copy or steal (literally or figuratively based on your imagination :smirk:) and watch Dead Poets Society. Today!

Thanks, FamilyPuzzleSolver!

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