The Cure for Writer’s Block!

To be honest, I’ve never really understood people who get “writer’s block” because I have the opposite problem. It’s a problem a colleague of mine charmingly described as “diarrhea of the pen.” (Okay, I’ll admit it was one of my elementary school teachers who came up with this diagnosis. She didn’t like my habit of adding five pages of witty footnotes to help explain the page-long book report I had turned in.)

People like me are always being told to “tighten things up,” reign things in,” and “tone things down,” when it comes to our writing and our wardrobes. We’re always being advised: “Cut back a bit, sweetie; I can’t see where you’re going with all of this. Lose the first 100 pages. Oh, and while you’re at it, you might consider removing that leopard-print jacket – not to mention the dangly earrings, the red lipstick, and the bangles.”

But if you’re the kind of person who has a hard time getting started when you sit down to write your best-selling novel or your book report—one of those types who could use a little mental laxative to get things flowing (sorry! I couldn’t resist the yucky metaphor) – may I suggest my favorite creative medicine?

Hold onto your bonnets, ladies and gents, because it’s going to sound a little old-fashioned. Don’t be shocked….. The solution is – ta da!

Write your best friend a letter.

“But I just sent a text message to my bff during algebra class five minutes ago,” you say.

No – not a “text message.” I mean write a letter on real paper with whole sentences. And everything. Even an envelope, an address, and a stamp. You might even mail it.

“But why should I do that?” you ask.

“Because,” I answer, prying the cell phone from your sweaty right hand and the melting candy bar from your sticky left hand, “for one thing, when you’re talking to your good friend, the words flow easily. And that’s the feeling you’d love to create with your writing — the feeling that you know your “audience” (who you’re talking to) and that you’re simply sitting down for a heart-to-heart conversation. Writing a letter to your friend will free you up to stop WRITING with a capital “WR” and simply start communicating. In other words, “TAWK!” as my grandmother would say.

Unlike four-paragraph essays, book reports, thank-you notes to grandparents, and college entrance narratives, a letter to your best friend has NO RULES in terms of structure or form. Well, there may be one rule: you obviously want your best friend to be either cracking up with laughter or on the edge or his or her seat flipping through the multiple pages of your letter. You want him or her to seize a pen and write you back immediately. Or at least send you a text.

I once wrote a letter to my best friend Wendy that began on my old typewriter and then continued through five different colors of ink before concluding with some pretty memorable song lyrics written in an orange crayon. It took three envelopes to hold the entire letter (which included a dramatic script featuring some notorious characters at our school, cartoon illustrations, and few commercial breaks for various household products) and I sent it out in three envelopes labeled “chapter 1,” “chapter 2,” and “chapter 3.”

If your own style is more formal or girlie, you could write with a fountain pen on fine paper and then spritz your work with perfume. Why not seal the envelope with dripping wax from a candle? As you can see, writing a real letter frees you to express yourself in some many ways.

Plus, there’s nothing more surprising and fun than finding a fat letter in the mailbox. When you find that letter, it’s kind of like discovering an unexpected treasure chest that contains something that was created just for you. Believe me, your friend will keep that treasure for a long time. My friend Wendy still has letters I wrote her back in fifth grade. I don’t have many letters from Wendy, but I do have some lengthy notes she passed in math class back in the days before we owned cell phones. (Let’s be honest; friends are not always equal when it comes to letter-writing motivation and skills. But that’s okay.)

My point is that the text messages Wendy and I have sent each other are gone for good. But the letters on real paper will still be around to embarrass our grandkids and baffle our biographers some day.

So why not give it a try the next time you’re staring at that blank piece of paper or lamenting the latest text insult forwarded from some “frenemy” who’s only posing as your friend? Believe me, some pretty amazing stories can emerge just from starting a simple letter to a true best friend.

Oh, and if by any chance you don’t have a best friend, don’t let that stop you. Some of the greatest writers ever started writing simply because they wanted to create the friend they couldn’t find in the real world – or to revive the feeling of a real friendship they had lost. I, for example, still write letters to my dad who has been gone for years now. Does he write back? No. But the box of letters I’ve written since the day he died has kept parts of him alive in a way I never could have imagined.

Find out more about writing and the GILDA JOYCE mysteries at!

59 Responses to “The Cure for Writer’s Block!”

  1. bridget Says:

    I love Gilda Joyce- and this blog is so her!

  2. Allison W. Says:

    I am going to try the spying thing! This is so cool!

  3. cora Says:

    this was sooo much help when im writing a story. me and my freind really neede this help

  4. Panda Luva 18 Says:

    I know how you feel about your dad dying,that’s what happened to my grandma too.I guess I’ll try writing a letter to her.Well,I might consider writing a real letter to my BFF Jessica,actually I already did but all I did was get a piece of paper and pen then I wrote like two paragraphs then ran to her house and put it in her mailbox.(she only lives like six houses down)That’s pretty much all I have to say.Oh,an
    d thanks for inspiring me to write stories,I’ve wrote about four now.
    Teri :) :) :)

  5. Andrea. Says:

    I am like in love with these books including Gilda Joyce. She just sounds sooo real. Right now i only have the 2nd book though but hopefully i can buy all of them soon.

  6. twits away from Mia Says:

    Great post, i belive blog posts like this add so much value to the community. Dear admin can I use some of the information from this post if I provide a link back to your site, pls pls? …10x a lot Catch ya later – Mia

  7. admin Says:

    Thank you Andrea! Hope you read all the books!

  8. Taylor Says:

    This is soo cool! I’ve read the Gilda Joyce series like, twice now and love them. I’ve only just now discovered this blog and love it! it’s great advice and hope to read more soon!

  9. Moi The Fab Says:

    love ur books so fab. tell me if u ever come to canada so i could get a signiture from you!!!!!!!

  10. yolanda Says:

    You rock!I am only reading the first book right now and I almost couldn’t put it down.After this I am immediately reading it.No one is stopping me!Gilda is sooooooooooo like me.We are like twins separated at birth.I know I am blabbing now so you are probably thinking shut up!!!!!!!Fine,okay no need to shout.

    I’ll be back before you know it,
    Yolanda Makiri
    Psychic Investigator,Writer and Spy

  11. Alyssa Says:

    this is so cool! i love reasing these books! even though i have finished all of them. i hope jennifer writes more!

  12. Rebecca Says:

    You are my hero, Gilda!! If Yolanda is your twin, can I be a triplet? Also, in the world of delicious inky page smells (okay sorry, that’s weird, let me replace that with “literature for younger folk”) have you come across a “Lily Blennerhassett”, a “Catherine Royal” or an “Enola Holmes”? You seem like you’d get along with them quite nicely.

    PS: My own typewriter is sadly almost out of ribbon, and since I assume no one sells typewriter ribbon on eBay, I just want to wish you best of luck with yours.

    P.P.S: I love your fashion sense. Do you have any tips on where to find cats-eye sunglasses/glasses?

  13. isabelle Says:

    hey, rebecca!!! thers abute a 1,00000000000000000000000000000002 typewriter ribons on e-bey! just type in typewriter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    hope you reed this,
    isabelle :-)

  14. isabelle Says:

    dear gilda,
    i would send you a letter, yes,with a stamp, but i don’t know your adress. so, i’me typing you a letter insted.
    dear gilda,
    i totaly love your books!!!!! i hope you write another one soon!!!!! i have an idea fore a title; The Chaple Phantom
    hope you like it!!!!!!! i’ll be looking in bookstoreis!!!!! :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

  15. lyndsey Says:

    omg im reading gilda jocye ladies of the lake i cant put it down!!!!!i got in trouble 4 reading in class its to could please write more!!!!

  16. isabelle Says:

    hello???? gilda??? wy are you not responding?????? did you get hit by a truck???????
    :( :(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(:(

  17. isabelle Says:

    :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :(

    ps: have you ever red nancy drew books? you would totaly LOVE her!!!!

    PPS: were DO you get cats-eye sunglasses? ( i ware glasses to C so they would have to be HUGE)

    PPPS: were do you get a wig wen it’s 8 months away from hollowean?????

    pppps: my mom won’t let me go enywere on my oun cens im’e only 10
    eny sugestions???????????? ( i’me desprete) (( i don’t want to wait untill i’me 12))

  18. isabelle Says:


  19. Elizabeth Says:

    Does anybody know where I can get a typewriter?
    Ever since I was a little girl I’ve wanted a typewriter!!!!!!
    It’s my number 1 thing on my wish list!!!!!
    I LOVE the Gilda Joyce books!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I’ve only read the 1st book but I loved it and now I want to read the 2nd one!!!!
    Can’t wait for your new book to come out in June 2011!!!!!!
    I’ve been writing since I was 7.
    I’ve written a couple of stories and I’m the best writer in class.
    Well, that’s what my teacher told me.
    My family loves reading my finished stories.
    Though, I only right small stories: like 2 pages long (or less).
    Anyway………..(again, again)

  20. admin Says:

    Hi Elizabeth!

    To find a typewriter, you can try looking at antique stores or garage sales. The best bet is to buy one online through a place like Ebay where people resell all kinds of old items. Good luck finding the typewriter of your dreams, and using it to write the next “Great American Novel”! :)
    Your friend,

  21. isabelle Says:

    hello. i am going to sumup all my replys into one.
    (1) read nancy drew books
    (2) i got a green typwriter & love it
    (3) were do you get big sunnglasses
    (4) were do you get wigs all year-around without going to a wig store
    (5) did you get hit by a truck
    investigator & spy signing off

  22. Sarah Says:

    Dear Gilda,
    I am doing a book project on you and suggestions? :D

  23. admin Says:

    Hi Sarah

    Congrats on a great topic idea! As for suggestions: make sure you’ve read all the GILDA JOYCE novels. (You laugh, but you’d be surprised at the questions I get!) The second suggestion is to make sure you understand what your teacher is asking you to do. Is it creative presentation or a traditional book report? If you have a creative option, you could capture the class’s attention by dressing up in Gilda Joyce or spy style for your oral presentation. You can also get audiobooks for each of the GILDA JOYCE stories — might be fun to play a favorite scene for the class. Or maybe it isn’t a presentation you’re doing? Actually, I just realized I don’t enough information to give you advice! Best of luck, though, and thank you for your good taste! :)

  24. admin Says:

    Hey Isabelle
    1. Me too!
    2. Awesome! Love it!
    3. for sunglasses: party stores often have the cat’s-eye type and other fun ones. Or Halloween/costume stores
    4. AGain — costume stores or party stores!
    5. No, but I’ll be extra careful after that comment! :)
    Thanks for writing!
    your friend,

  25. Jordan Triplett Says:

    Hi Gilda!
    Much like you, I enjoy;
    1. Writing everything that comes to my strange and crazy brain, with you as my #1 inspiration
    2. Eating peanutbutter, banana, and chocolate sandwiches (I even fried it like you suggested in the Dead Drop!!
    3. Shopping for spy clothing
    4. People watching (so entertaining!)
    5. Remembering my father with love.
    6. Writing it all down on my typewriter!!
    When I first found you, I was scamming my library shelves for something interesting, and boy did I find it!! I found your books before I lost my father, and you Gilda, you really helped me deal with that loss. I love you and your adventures so much, and I’m so happy that I got to write you a note! Even if you don’t reply to this, I hope you read it!! I just want you to know that you are my idol and I read your books as much as you read The Master Physcic’s handbook. You are amazing!! But you already know that :) thanks so much for everything!!!
    :) stay fabulous!
    Your friend,

  26. Jordan :) Says:

    Hi Gilda!
    Much like you, I enjoy;
    1. Writing everything that comes to my strange and crazy brain, with you as my #1 inspiration
    2. Eating peanutbutter, banana, and chocolate sandwiches (I even fried it like you suggested in the Dead Drop!!
    3. Shopping for spy clothing
    4. People watching (so entertaining!)
    5. Remembering my father with love.
    6. Writing it all down on my typewriter!!
    When I first found you, I was scamming my library shelves for something interesting to read, not suspecting that I was about to find my FAVORITE BOOK SERIES EVER!!! Boy did I find it!! I found your books before I lost my father, and you Gilda, you really helped me deal with that loss. I love you and your adventures so much, and I’m so happy that I got to write you a note! Even if you don’t reply to this, I hope you read it!! I just want you to know that you are my idol and I read your books as much as you read The Master Physcic’s handbook. You are amazing!! (But you already know that!) :) thanks so much for everything!!!
    stay fabulous!
    Your friend,

  27. admin Says:

    Thank you, Jordan! I think others will be inspired by the list you wrote here. I love it! Your message is an inspiration to me too!

  28. isabelle Says:

    dear gilda,

    thank you for repliing. It feels good to know that a faemus person like you listen to people like me.
    I orderd your last 2 books from inter library lown, but it’s been 2 weeks & they still haven’t arived yet!!!( I think they’ve been ubducted by aliens becous they are so ausume)(all the other books at the library are begining to bore me) I’ve read your first book 2!!!!!
    well, L.Y.,L.B.,L.T.( Love you, love books, love typwriters)
    ( thanks for the advice!!!)

    Totaly wish I were related to you!!!
    ~ Isabelle

  29. isabelle Says:

    :> :] :0 :)

  30. isabelle Says:

    sorry, i was hitting the wrong keys.
    :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

  31. isabelle Says:

    I got my books!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    they are awsume!!!!!!!!!!!!!( or, were, that is.) I SO want to go to Washington, D.C., now!

    ~ L.Y., L.B., L.T.
    ~~ Isabelle

  32. Tanya Says:

    Hi Gilda!
    I find that your books are amazing.Thanks for inspiring me to be a writer. Only problem is, I have no ideas fro a good book that people wanta to read. Another thing, could you please write as many as books as you can because they are amazing.
    PS. Ms Allison, are you thinking of coming to Singapore?

  33. isabelle Says:

    how do YOU find misterys? ex: you do nothing but sit at home all day, reading about the great adventurs of OTHER people. you despretly want to find a mistery, so wate do you do?

    P.S. PLEASE respond as soon as posable.

  34. admin Says:

    Hi Isabelle! What a great question! Well, if you’re like me, you want to get out and have some interesting experiences, and then write about them in your journal. Note that mysteries can be large and small. For example, why is there NEVER a pair of matching socks in my house? Is there some weird “sock poltergeist” at work here? A one-footed sock thief? Obviously, few of us want to read about socks (and those of us who do need to go spend some time with my Grandma Joyce because she would be in heaven). But I bet there are some mysteries around you Isabelle, if you start paying very close attention. Mysteries start by asking a question. How did things get this way? WHY do people behave the way they do? Then you imagine — and/or research–possible reasons. Reading and life experiences work together to give us ideas. For example, read the newspaper; it’s full of unsolved mysteries!

  35. admin Says:

    Hi Tanya!
    First, send me a ticket and I’ll be there (in Singapore)! :) If you have a librarian or teacher who can send a note to we could discuss a school or bookstore visit! I don’t have any plans at the moment, but I would love to sometime. How did you discover the GILDA JOYCE series?

    Regarding ideas: your book ideas will be interesting if you focus on a topic, character, setting or story that you are *genuinely* curious and passionate about. Your own curiosity will be infectious for the reader. Keep in mind that writers try and toss out many story ideas all the time; it can really take a lot of time and effort to find that one “gem” that makes readers interested. But trust your own instincts about what is “interesting.”

  36. Tanya Says:

    I was actually looking for a good mystery in the library and ta da! I spotted your book! I have read all your books three times each. They are really good.
    Just wondering.. How many books are you going to be writing?
    PS.Thanks a lot for replying to me. I still can’t believe it!!

  37. isabelle Says:

    thank you for the advice, but i wasen’t talking about wy 2×2 and 2+2 both equle 4. i mean somthing BIG. somthing like your books. not wy CDs are shiney. something worth investigateing! please respond.

    from, Isabelle( the bored)

  38. admin Says:

    Start with the local newspaper. If you’re old enough, look into studying something associated with criminal justice. (And by the way, haven’t you noticed that most investigators stumble upon big mysteries when they begin with something they think will be “small”?) Never assume that things are “boring”.

  39. isabelle Says:

    PLEASE post the recipe for “Gilda’s up all night choc. cookie suprise”!!!!!!

  40. isabelle Says:

    P.S. thank you, i know WHAT to investigate now, but HOW DO YOU INVESTIGAT IT?
    P.P.S. i can’t go peaking into naghbor’s windows or anything like that.

  41. Rosie Says:

    Gilda RULES! Too bad she’s not real, we would have been such good friends.

  42. Rosie Says:

    Gilda RULES!

  43. Rosie Says:

    Jennifer Allison is the world’s coolest writer! Jennifer, I am your biggest fan!

  44. Rosie Says:

    I love Gilda!

  45. isabelle Says:

    dear miss alison:

    what do you do when you arn’t wrighting?

  46. admin Says:

    So true, Rosie. Except the part about me not being “real.” (haha) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written to my favorite characters from novels, only to find an empty mailbox when I look for their replies! – Gilda

  47. Taylor Says:

    Love it! Sooo awesome! can’t wait for the next book!

  48. isabelle Says:

    gilda- tried the cookie recipe- loved it! I’m eating one wright know!! deliceose!!!!!!!!!

  49. isabelle Says:

    gilda- tried the cookie recipe- loved it! I’m eating one wright know!! delicese!!!!!!!!!

  50. Taylor Says:

    When are you going to continue the artice ” How do I get published” ??? It would really be helpfull!! thank you!

  51. Tanya Says:

    Dear Jennifer Allison,
    I want to know how to spy. You see there are not many interesting things in Singapore compared to U.S.A. When I bring my book, it ends up staying in my bag ’cause I have nothing to write about. Also, I wish to know how to get a good idea for a book. Could you please tell me how to gat ideas flowing and how to get a book published and how to create a good character ?

    Your truest fan ( I read your book : LADIES OF THE LAKE for the 17th time yesterday!)

    PS. You rock!!!
    PPS. Gilda is a great character!!

  52. Tanya Says:

    Sorry for spelling mistakes. This is my fave website!!


  53. admin Says:

    Hey, Tanya! Thanks for writing! Well, you’ve asked a lot of good questions here. However, you have one false statement in the second sentence of your note. There are interesting things EVERYWHERE if you start paying attention to details. It’s also possible that the lives around you will seem more interesting as you get older. People often become fascinated with their home towns after moving away for years, for example. If you ever have a chance to go someplace new — even a new neighborhood, a new museum, etc. with a friend or parent — that might get some creativity flowing because it will stimulate your senses. And don’t forget to read. Aside from the obvious (BONES OF THE HOLY coming out in June!) :) , look for books on other topics that seem fascinating to you. Lots of ideas come from learning about a topic of interest. Keep searching and discovering, and think about note-taking instead of book-writing. When you’re young, books start to take shape little by little. But if you’re like me, you’re probably impatient with that process. Try to enjoy yourself. If all else fails, try the new recipe I posted. :) your friend, Gilda (& Jennifer Allison) :)

  54. admin Says:

    So glad you loved the cookie recipe, Isabelle! It’s one of my faves too!

    And thanks for the reminder Taylor; that’s next up in June! Just remember, “a watched computer never boils.” Or is that “a watched pot”? You know what I mean!


  55. jackie Says:

    gilda is the most amazing character and book ever in the universe forever

  56. isabelle Says:

    I love the new book!!! great ending!!!! I couldent put it down!!!!!!! :)

  57. Taylor Says:

    Thanks Gilda! I have a quesiton, do you ever use or make things out of duct tape?? I love to (almost as much as reading or writing) and I made my own website. Check it out:

  58. Taylor Says:

    Just finished ” The Bones of Holy”. AMAZING!!!!! can’t wait for the next one!

  59. admin Says:

    Thanks, Taylor!

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