What to Do When Writers Stall

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This is usually the first sign of trouble. Sometimes the programmer knows exactly what the problem is but not how to wriggle out of it. Coding blocks, for instance, are hard to define. They're not easy-to-spot objects with "trouble" written in big letters. Normally, it's something that just won't work correctly. It often takes a while for a programmer to realize that he or she may not be able to resolve it on their own.

It's a good rule of thumb that if a writer has spent more than half an hour getting nowhere, he should start using Plan B, even though it may mean interrupting his colleagues. The first thing he should do is talk the problem through with his project manager—it's what he's there for. If the project manager can't solve the problem, the pair should work out who (inside the team or outside the organization) is most likely to know the answer. If that doesn't yield results, they should put out a newsgroup message. The response time can be surprisingly prompt, but delays of up to four hours are common. If a programmer takes this route, he will naturally get on with something else in the interval, pausing to check every hour for a brainwave to emanate from the Internet.

Note Being shy, polite, or embarrassed isn't going to shift writer's block. Talking to some one else will. Whenever anyone's stuck, more heads are better than one.

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