Ian Rankin, author of the Inspector Rebus novels: I go for a walk. Or sometimes I’ll talk the problem over with my wife. Both of these can be very helpful.
Mark Winkler, author of The Safest Place You Know: I’ve come to believe being stuck is the brain’s way of begging for a rest, so I no longer try to force things when I’m stuck. Instead, I read, or try to do something I’ve never done before, or at least do very seldom.
Nnedi Okorafor, creative writing professor and author of Lagoon: One thing I do is give myself permission to be really bad at writing, to fail at it. Once I stop
trying to be brilliant by decree then I’m often not stuck anymore. What I’m writing might not be golden, but at least I’m filling the page.
Alison Lowry, editor and former CEO of Penguin Books South Africa: Go with it, rather than push against it. Trust that it hasn’t left me — whatever “it” is — but has just gone out for tea. It will return when it’s meant to.
Jonathan Shapiro, aka Zapiro, cartoonist: For me, the best thing to do then is to rely on left-brain, methodical, programmatic ways of doing things, and hope that the right-brain, creative explosion will kick in when I least expect it. I will write down subjects, words, link them, and do mind maps. I’ll try to unblock myself by at least doing a journeyman effort, which will be passable, and then quite often when I get up to do something else I get that extra spark that changes things.
Sebastian Barry, author of Days Without End: To try to shake the awful feeling that descends, I go into the mountains with the dogs, or seek out my wife for yet another cup of coffee, and our “parliament of nothing said”, which is the best sort of parliament, except when it’s for running a country.
Marianne Thamm, journalist and author of Hitler, Verwoerd, Mandela and Me: I always work with music on in the background. Music grounds me. What I listen to depends on my mood — I have a very large collection and I am a bit of a slut when it comes to music.
Margie Orford, President of PEN South Africa and author of the Clare Hart crime novels: I fight with the people who love me. Then I go and write. Then I have to come out and apologise and be nice.