Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Writer’s Block, or The Editor Within? by Barbara Chepaitis

Today we have the pleasure of featuring Barbara Chepaitis, the author of 8 published books, as well as founder of the storytelling trio The Snickering Witches, and faculty coordinator for the fiction component of Western Colorado’s MFA program in creative writing.

It seems every writer hits a bump in the manuscript road - is it writer's block, or something else? Barbara shares her thoughts with us.

Writer’s Block, or The Editor Within? 

by Barbara Chepaitis 
I’ve never had writer’s block.  In fact, I don’t believe it exists.  What others call writer’s block I believe is the interference of an internal voice you could call the Editor Within, a piece of your ego that fears being a fool.

I also believe every writer has a certain point at which their faith and energy in what they’re writing wavers.  Suddenly, it all seems like garbage and you have no idea whatever made you think you could write anything worthwhile, anything anyone would want to read.   That moment seems to arrive at different points in the writing process for each writer.  For some, it shows up at the beginning, when you’re staring at a blank page.  For others, it occurs at the midpoint, when energy flags.  For others – and my husband is one of these – it shows up just before the piece is completed.

My moment of dread appears just after I’ve sent a completed project to an agent or editor.  Then, the Editor Within leaps up and tells me I’ve done it all wrong and have to rewrite everything because, well, it’s garbage, etc.   Fortunately, by then it’s too late. 

Of course, no matter when your Editor Within starts yammering at you, the trick is to figure out how to make it go away until your work is done. Since the editor speaks from your ego and is mostly worried about appearing  foolish, a good defense is to embrace your folly consciously and  remember writing isn’t really about your ego, it’s about the story.  When the Editor Within begins its litany, simply agree.   Reply yes, I am a fool, and I’m not here to please you.  I’m here to serve the stories, which want to be written. 
Say it once, twice, as many times as necessary.  I am a fool, and I’m here to serve the stories.   And remember it well, because if you are a writer, it’s absolutely true.

BIO: Barbara Chepaitis is the author of 8 published books, including The Fear Principle featuring Jaguar Addams, and the critically acclaimed Feeding Christine and These Dreams. Her first nonfiction book, Feathers of Hope, is about Berkshire Bird Paradise and the human connection with birds.   She’s writing a sequel about Eagle Mitch, a bird she helped our US troops rescue from Afghanistan.  Barbara is founder of the storytelling trio The Snickering Witches, and faculty coordinator for the fiction component of Western Colorado’s MFA program in creative writing.

You can find Barbara at:

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Barbara’s website:


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Nancy Famolari said...

Great article. It's certainly true that the editor on your shoulder kicks in at different times in the process of completing your novel. The trick is to keep going!

Karen Cioffi said...

I agree, great article. I have a hard time keeping my editor away, even while I'm writing. I'm thinking of getting a whip!

Unknown said...

Very good tip! I need to make my Editor ego to be silent...

Karen Cioffi said...

Hi, Farrah, thanks for stopping by.

Margaret Fieland said...

Terrific article. I have to stomp on my inner editor, sometimes more so than others. What works sometimes is looking away from the keyboard (fortunately I touch type) and just letting the words flo out ithout thinking too much about hat I'm writing. Of course, then I have to deal with the resulting typos.

Cheryl said...

Fabulous article, Barbara. I don't experience writers block either. I think it's because I have so little writing time it's too precious to waste.

Best of luck with your latest release.


Geoff Maritz said...

This was a good feature, thanks. I'm just popping in to say Hi! and trying to catch up with all the new and old followers I seem to have accquired. To be able to converse with a proffesional writer in a great honur for me. God bless you my friend and may you truly enjoy mothers day. Love, Geoff.

Karen Cioffi said...

Peggy, I hear ya!

Cheryl, I haven't yet suffered with writers block
either, and I hope I never do. :)

Geoff, Thanks for stopping by and commenting! It's a pleasure to meet you.

Nicole R. Zimmerman said...

I like your strategy: embrace the fool. Thanks for the reminder. As I wrote on my blog, "No matter how many cheerleaders I have in my corner, that internalized voice of self-doubt continually tries to block my way of accepting the calling and challenge of being a writer. It's a mean and persistent little thing, like a troll that lives under the bridge I keep trying to cross."

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