Why Did Taffy Brodesser-Akner Go to a Psychic to Fix Her Writer’s Block?

Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s novel, Long Island Compromise, is available now from Random House, so we asked her a few questions about writing, reading, procrastination, and more.

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How do you tackle writers block?

I used to pretend that there was no such thing as writer’s block as my very own mind game. It stopped working on Long Island Compromise, where I went through such a profound period of months where nothing good came out that I actually went to a psychic to find out what was wrong with me. Actually, I went to the psychic because I thought maybe my character would go, and I’d never really been to one.

But when I was there, she told me that my third eye was blocked, and suddenly it made all the sense in the world. Of course! My third eye! I am embarrassed to say I gave her in excess of $100 to clear my third eye.

I don’t think whatever she did (nothing) was what cured me, though. What cured me was writing the next sentence. And then the next one. Then the next one. We like to think of writing as spiritual, but, actually, it’s just physics.

Who is the person, or what is the place or practice that had the most significant impact on your writing education?

I had an English teacher who knew I wanted to be a writer but told me I wasn’t very good. She found out that I was writing college essays for other kids on the side for $20 apiece (I’m a terrible negotiator) and told me that I shouldn’t be doing it because it’s immoral (sure!) but also because I’m not that good. I believed her for a long time.

I went on to have such great teachers in my life, and they all contributed here and there to the writing golem I became; but she’s the only one who slowed me down, who stopped me. A while back, I stopped hating myself for listening to her and started understanding how screwed up it was to say something like that to a child.

What was the first book you fell in love with (why)?

The first time I understood why you’d be so crazed about reading as a general endeavor was from a Paula Danziger book called The Pistachio Prescription. It was about an awkward girl’s parents’ divorce, and I’d never seen anything so accurately describe the wilderness of what happens to your body, mind, family and surroundings when your parents announce that they’re taking a flamethrower to the stability you knew deep down was barely intact (but you hoped!).

What’s a book you recommend to other writers?

My friend and colleague at the Times A.O. Scott wrote a book called Better Living Through Criticism, and I give it to writer friends after they finish something big. It talks about every writer’s fear, that we’re unoriginal and derivative, and how nothing is good enough and reassures me that yes, everything is derivative, but that’s what the artist’s goal needs to be—to create through imitation.

I read it every time I hand something big in. It is like having the smartest therapist in the world.

What is your favorite way to procrastinate when you are meant to be writing?

Writing something else. It is honestly the wildest and most productive form of procrastination. It feels like sedition, but it’s really just being smart with your time and serving your actual laziness. Real procrastination would be standing up.


Long Island Compromise - Brodesser-Akner, Taffy

Long Island Compromise by Taffy Brodesser-Akner is available via Random House.

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