Rebecca Makkai

Five Things I've Learned About

Getting Unstuck

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Join best-selling novelist and teacher Rebecca Makkai, and discover the Five Things She’s Learned about breaking free of the ideas, fears, and ambitions that can block creativity – and about how artists of all kinds can get back on track and back to work.

Online Event Details

  • 120 minutes


  • Single-Class Ticket - $60.00

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about breaking free of the ideas, fears, and ambitions that can block creativity – and about how artists of all kinds can get back on track and back to work.

I don’t believe in “writer’s block” or “creative block.” Not because I don’t believe a creative person can get stuck, deeply stuck, and be unable to create for months or years — but because I believe “writer’s block” is always fundamentally a misdiagnosis for a number of other problems, ones with practical solutions. And no, the solution isn’t just to power through, or to abandon your project and start another. 

I’m currently working on my sixth book, but as a teacher of creative writing I’ve guided hundreds of students through stalled-out drafts, and I’ve seen – particularly over the course of a yearlong novel workshop I’ve taught for over a decade – the predictable ways that creative people can get stuck in the swamp of their own ideas and fears and ambitions. (It doesn’t help that we’re all in this because we have overactive imaginations. Those overactive imaginations can really do a number on us, telling us the worst possible stories about ourselves and our projects.) 

I’ve learned many, many things over the years about getting unstuck, and – if you’re a writer or any kind of creative person – I hope to share them with you in my live, two-hour class, Five Things I’ve Learned about Getting Unstuck.

Because I like to follow rules before I ignore them, I’ll be breaking this down into five major lessons, the key things I’ve learned after all this time:

  • We often misdiagnose craft issues as psychological issues (“I must be afraid to write”) and psychological issues as craft issues. (“Maybe this will all be better if I throw it out yet again and try it in second person plural”). We’ll talk about how a proper diagnosis of the issue at hand is the first step in finding a solution. 
  • Any artist needs to learn how to toggle, at will, between the creative brain that happily makes the art and the critical brain we all need later for editing. When the critical brain takes the driver’s seat at the wrong moment, we end up in artist hell. We’ll talk about how to strengthen the muscles that flip the switch between those two modes.
  • We can get tripped up not just on the project itself, but on how we fear or hope it will be perceived in the world. That ambition is, of course, key to being a creative person and not just someone who keeps a private notebook… We’ll talk about keeping your ambitions and fears working for you and for the project – rather than standing in your path. 
  • Many writers, and many artists of all kinds, get tripped up in worrying about the relationship of their project to the truth. This might be a concern about how to stay true to an historical narrative while still exercising creative control, or it might be a worry that friends or family will (rightly or wrongly) see themselves in your work. I have a really good trick for getting past this, and I’ll share it with you.
  • Every worthwhile artistic endeavor contains, at its heart, a cosmic impossibility. A paradox that affects the conception of the piece itself. A reason the piece cannot actually exist as envisioned. That’s a good thing. And I’ll tell you how to deal with it. 

As the things I’ve learned suggest: This class will be both philosophical and practical. I really believe that you’ll benefit from the class no matter what creative endeavor has you tied in knots. And we’ll leave plenty of time for questions. We’ll learn concrete techniques for getting over the hump, out of the rut, through the weeds, and back on track. 

Please join me. I can’t wait to see you there! 

– Rebecca Makaii

Rebecca Makkai

Rebecca Makkai is the author of the novels I Have Some Questions for YouThe Great BelieversThe Hundred-Year House, and The Borrower, and the story collection Music for Wartime.

A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, The Great Believers received an American Library Association Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, among other honors, and was named one of the Ten Best Books of 2018 by The New York Times.

A Guggenheim fellow, Rebecca is on the MFA faculties of the University of Nevada, Reno at Lake Tahoe and Northwestern University, and is the artistic director of StoryStudio Chicago.

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