New Pens!

How does one deal with writer’s block?

I can tell you a dozen things that don’t work. Scores of things that work badly. I’m trying cure number, I dunno, three hundred seventeen. The Pilot G-2 Mini (this is not an endorsement, this is a desperate attempt to beat writer’s block, which may or may not work), in four colors:

I bought new pens, to help me write
The stuff I write to you.
New pens, to help me write, in red
And black, and green, and blue

I had a case of writer’s block,
With nothing in my head.
My pens should help with that, in black
And green, and blue, and red.

They’re sitting on my writing desk;
My muse must soon come back!
I’ve got my brand-new pens, in green
And blue, and red, and black.

Yep, any minute now, I’ll write
A picture-perfect scene
My pens can’t fail me now, in blue,
And red, and black, and green

Of course, it is entirely possible that what I need is the Montblanc Meisterstück Hommage à Frédéric Chopin, a freaking gorgeous fountain pen. If the Montblanc people ever happen to read this blog, and want a spokescephalopod, you should know that I can be bought.

And if anyone else has a sure-fire cure for writer’s block, I would love to know it.


  1. noodlezoop says

    ( : I really liked that.

    You could also try cleaning off your whole desk. Then you’re sure to want to sharpen all of your pencils and line them up neatly with a fresh sheet of paper. You’ll probably need a glass of water as you work, though, so you should get that before you settle in. Oh, and a snack, in case you get hungry. Like an apple! But an apple by itself is so lonesome, and the juice will get everywhere on your fresh sheet of paper, so maybe you should go to the kitchen and make something more substantial…and a sandwich seems so pedestrian when compared to the great work you are about to begin…

    In short, no, I don’t actually know a cure for writer’s block. But I do know that writer’s block can be the gateway to the 5-course Michelin-starred dinner you never knew you could prepare.

  2. tajparis says

    Not a cure for writer’s block, but cool new pens don’t hurt.

    Jetpens dot com is my “pusher” of choice.

  3. Art says

    A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, an english teacher started putting things into a large cardboard box. There was a baseball, a red rubber ball, a broken open-end wrench, a hammer, a Kewpie doll, a small revolver recovered at an archeological site rusted to uselessness, an old bottle with a cork that once held a patent medicine, a spent brass cartridge, a seashell, a piece of coal …

    There must have been over a hundred items in there. Once or twice a week she would randomly pull out a couple of items, place them on your desk, and give you ten minutes to make up a story.

    At first it was a burden to create a story but after a time nearly everyone could produce a workable story given any combination. At first we had to write fifty words for it to count as a story. Poems and Haiku got a break. But then she wanted you to elaborate on your story. And then elaborate even more. After a few tries everyone could whip out a couple of hundred words about anything.

    What does this have to do with writer’s block? Easy, people often get writers block because they care about the story. Given random objects you just write. There is no pressure to make it good or meet anyone’s expectations. You’re free to write because you are not tied up in knots about the characters or the story.

    Try it. Get a friend, kids are really good at this, to bring you a few interesting objects. Make up a simple story. It can be happy, sad or silly. Whatever mood you’re in or feel like. Write it out as an outline. Then go back over it an expand on some point. Then put it down, take a break, come back and expand some more.

    Funny thing is that writing on an entirely unimportant and contrived story is still writing, and it gets you past the block. Once you get a roll going you’re golden.

    Works for me.

  4. Crudely Wrott says

    Stop worrying about it. Think of something else.

    Then write about that.

    Works for me.

  5. daenyx says

    My favorite cure for writer’s block – with the caveat that I do not write for a living, so I can afford to put it aside – is to stop forcing myself to try for a few days, and do some receptive recreation instead. In my case, that’s reading fantasy or sci-fi or playing RPGs. I often neglect these things when I’m working on a creative project, and I find that my brain very much acts like a rechargeable battery in this regard. When I’ve been reading or gaming a lot, I get the itch to write; when I can’t make words come, taking part in someone else’s story is a relief and a source of inspiration.

    If the block is mild, I find that brainstorming ideas for later is a productive way to use the time and possibly get more excited about an idea. (Possibly less applicable to poetry; I mostly write prose.)

  6. says

    I’ve been a professional writer my entire adult life. I’ve never had writer’s block.

    But if I’m having trouble getting started, I sit at the keyboard and type nonsense. Which then morphs into intelligible thoughts.

    asaldkfkjla.dmc.fmd.oesowijlasd;klfjasl;kjdtanslndkfnalnhjt what else am I gong to write about this is bullshit ok this story is about how to overcome writer’s block.

    Merely the physical act of starting — well — gets me started.

  7. says

    I don’t have the mini version, but I love, love, love the Pilot G-2. I buy them in bulk packages of 18. A package for my full-time job, a package for home, a package for my part-time job, and a package for the car. I feel rather naked without a pen, and will never, ever be caught without a G-2 at the ready. So, good choice CF. If it helps you beat writer’s block, all the better.

  8. Cuttlefish says

    Leftwingfox–My goodness, it’s pen porn! I am feeling a terrible urge to go try out some fountain pens now. Back in high school, one teacher actually required us to do pen-and-ink with dipping quills–I still have a pen with 3 different nibs and 2 kinds of ink at my office to this day. My handwriting is horrible, though, mostly due to lack of practice. When I was teaching myself Greek, I used it to practice the Greek alphabet daily, and got pretty decent at it for a while. Haven’t picked it up in a couple of years, though.

    Kevin–sounds very much like “Do, or do not; there is no try.”

    Makita–I buy a pack of G-2 for class about once a year, and use them up in about that time, with my own notes and markups on student papers. I didn’t even notice that these were the minis when I picked them up–but so much the better, for taking up less room in my backpack. I bike to work, and I essentially keep my entire office in my backpack, so every gram counts.

    Now I gotta look at more fountain pens!!!

  9. leftwingfox says

    I’m a lousy writer, but the artist side of me loves me some pen porn. Rotring makes some very nice fountain sketch pens which were a favourite of mine for life drawing. Too expensive and hard to find replacements for after a while. These days I stick mostly to Faber Castell PITT pigment liners.

    All time favourite drawing toy though, is the Pentel pocket brush. It’s a synthetic bristle-tipped brush with replaceable ink cartridges. It’s delicious.

  10. Cuttlefish says

    LWF– I bought my father-in-law a nice set of Rotring pens some 20 years ago, for his drawings. It is possible that I have given a more perfect gift at some point, but unlikely. They were like a portable studio for him–he took them everywhere.

  11. ottod says

    I’m personally very fond of fountain pens. I have several, and I used to resort to digging a different one out when the one I was using seemed to have run dry of words. Nowadays, I write little by hand and fountain pens have to be exercised to work properly, so I fall back on an extra soft pencil.

    Perhaps you’d benefit from the used of a quill like the one your avatar uses. I could send you some goose quills (do it yourself), but they’d probably ruin the meter because they’d be from Canadian geese, eh.

  12. Cuttlefish says

    ottod, I hear I need outside feathers from the left wing, early in the season, to match a right-handed writer.

    A confession–I once, at a conference about a decade ago, took notes using an actual quill. And in rhyme. And this was long before I had the Cuttlefish moniker.

    I’m just weird.

  13. says

    Three things worth trying, if you haven’t tried them already.

    1) Tell yourself that you’re not allowed to write AT ALL for x number of days – say a week. It’s a bit like swearing off alcohol. Suddenly you can’t think of anything else. As a bonus, the house tends to get clean and tidy.

    2) Write a sonnet about ear wax. It does not have to be poetic, but it does have to scan and follow the rhyme scheme.

    3) Force yourself to write a certain number of words a day. They may be crud, and to begin with, they will be crud, but write them anyway. Little by little they will become less cruddy, until you’ve got something you can edit until it’s not embarrassing.

    Not that I’m prolific myself…

  14. says

    I should add that the point of the ear wax is that you know it’s going to be unspeakably awful. Anything else unspeakably awful will do. You can’t produce art, so the pressure’s off. And meanwhile your inner critic is too busy with the mechanics to notice when your imagination starts to soar.


  15. Cuttlefish says

    Sheila–that’s pretty much the purpose of my “Headline Muse” posts. But for that matter, I don’t consider what I produce to be art in the first place, so writer’s block usually does not stem from that cause. Although I am seriously considering trying to write genuine high art about ear wax now.

  16. dean says

    I see that there have been other fountain pen suggestions, but I will still add one:

    Side note: I use fountain pens almost exclusively, for notes, drafts of papers, letters (yes, real letters) and journals: I began writing a journal 20 years ago when we began fertility treatments, and kept it up through the adoption of our two sons. I guess that makes two sets of journals. They will get their own sets eventually, but don’t get to read them until then. My penmanship isn’t the best, but writing with a good pen, in a good journal, often with a glass of good amber liquid, is quite soothing.

    Sorry for the digression.

  17. dean says

    Rats – hit post rather than preview: my choice for pen is simple: I would be too intimidated to write with the works of art others have suggested. I feel much more comfortable with pens designed for everyday use.

  18. Cuttlefish says

    Peter B– That article is posted on our faculty bulletin board–I am quite familiar with it! But that is a great idea for an epic poem. Or Villanelle. Or Sonnet. Maybe a limerick. A haiku. Maybe just a tweet.

  19. Cuttlefish says

    Dean, I don’t know how I missed your comments earlier–wow, the Churchill is a stunning pen. And I can’t imagine a more beautiful use for a pen than your journals!

    As for “everyday use” pens, you certainly have a point. I did see these– –which appear to be actual fountain pens designed for everyday use; I have not seen them in stores (haven’t really looked, in truth), but it seems like it might be the perfect gateway drug.

  20. mcbender says

    The Pilot Varsity pens are actually surprisingly good. I’ve even heard of people finding ways to refill them with bottled ink (althouh because they’re disposable pens, the nibs don’t have any tipping material and will wear out eventually). I tend not to use them myself, but they do work well.

    I temd not to write with works of art either, although I do have a soft spot for my Visconti Homo Sapiens pen and use that one almost daily. It’s nice looking, but I’m not terribly worried about damaging a pen made of titanium and volcanic rock – that thing can take a beating.

  21. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Blundered into this because you were bewailing the pens that Zinnia reci9eved.

    There are several cure for writer’s block:

    1 – pin your bills above the computer

    2 – start writing about how crappy it is that you have writers block, as fast as you can. Babble at whatever your usual typing speed is.

    3 – Give yourself permission to write CRAP!

  22. Cuttlefish says

    Permission!? I write nothing *but* CRAP! And since I don’t make any money from writing, #1 doesn’t work. #2 can be seen at the second link in my post!

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