Bernstein on Mahler 9

blastedrandomness asked: I hope you read this, Mr. Hill, because I could really use some professional advice. What do you do when you just don't think you can write anymore? Not burned out, but just unable to pick up a pen and think creatively. I love writing, but I can't even look at my writing journal without feeling drained. What do you do in situations like this? Is this something I'm just going to have to push through? Thank you so much for your help and advice.


You can pop-start a dead motorcycle by riding it downhill in first gear, then letting out the clutch all at once. Sometimes the motor will turn over with a boom and your ride is back to life.

I look for one mean little sentence to get me going again. Something to pop-start the story. Like:

"Wind scoured the beach."

"The shouting woke her."

"The car began to slide in the wet snow."

"Shell casings flashed in the weeds."

Or I’ll try and get a couple of my characters talking. If you can find your way to an exciting character, a lot of times that will bring you emotionally back to your work… and dialogue is a reliable way to discover character.

Think about the way people don’t listen to each other, talk past each other, focus on their own weird little obsessions. Have fun with your characters’s fixations and eccentricities and unique manners of speech.

Are you reading anything good? One way to get excited about your own writing is to get excited about someone else’s.

Try sneaking up on it. Decide you’ll write one sentence, then fold some laundry for five minutes. Then you’ll write two sentences. Leave the pen and paper out where you can see them. In the middle of folding the underwear you might suddenly come up with a sentence you can’t wait to write. I write letters to friends that take me days. I just leave the stationery out and add to the letter whenever something interesting occurs to me.

Have a little mercy on yourself. If the best you can do is a paragraph, make it a great fuckin’ paragraph and then be done for the day. Go for a walk. No one day of writing matters all that much.

Remember to keep physically active. More and more I think this is the secret ingredient of a successful creative life. Go for a long walk every day - you’ll be surprised how often you come back with a few new ideas.

Good luck.

Music composition lessons in here for sure!

lmlarry18 asked: Is there anything that you have published that you know wish you could, "take back" or re-write??


No, not really. I’ve never published anything that wasn’t flawed, that didn’t contain missteps. All the stories suffer from my own limitations of imagination, empathy, courage, intelligence. But I like to think I always gave it my best, that I punched until I was all punched out.

I feel like once a story is published it belongs to the reader, and trying to go back and fix things betrays the basic contract - it’s an attempt on the part of the creator to reclaim something that they shouldn’t try to reclaim.

Which doesn’t mean I’d never revise or reinvent an old work, only that my natural inclination is to let it be.