Don’t look back until you’ve written an entire draft, just begin each day from the last sentence you wrote the preceding day. This prevents those cringing feelings, and means that you have a substantial body of work before you get down to the real work which is all in … the edit.
It’s often a matter of sitting in front of the computer and worrying. It’s what writing comes down to—worrying that things aren’t going to work out.
Read your work aloud, if you can, if you aren’t too embarrassed by the sound of your voice ringing out when you are alone in a room. Chances are that the sentence you can hardly pronounce without stumbling is a sentence that needs to be reworked to make it smoother and more fluent. A poet once told me that he was reading a draft of a new poem aloud to himself when a thief broke into his Manhattan loft. Instantly surmising that he had entered the dwelling of a madman, the thief turned and ran without taking anything, and without harming the poet. So it maybe that reading your work aloud will not only improve its quality but save your life in the process.
If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.
In fiction, I exercise my nosiness. I am as curious as my cats, and indeed that has led to trouble often enough and used up several of my nine lives. I am an avid listener. I am fascinated by other people’s lives, the choices they make and how that works out through time, what they have done and left undone, what they tell me and what they keep secret and silent, what they lie about and what they confess, what they are proud of and what shames them, what they hope for and what they fear. The source of my fiction is the desire to understand people and their choices through time.