From Ronald Bergan's The Coen Brothers (p116), on the writer's block they suffered on Miller's Crossing:
The screenplay took longer to write than their previous two scripts - about eight months - because they got stuck halfway through. Referring to the untitled film as The Bighead, a nickname they had given the Tom Reagan character, the writing brothers found the plot had become too complicated for them to figure out. They tried various techniques to overcome the block, including different locations. They remember banging their heads against the wall and wearing out the rug pacing the floor, but artistic angst isn't something either will admit to.
They spent two weeks with Sam Raimi. They talked at length to John Turturro. They called Barry Sonnenfeld. Nothing worked. They went to stay with their friend William Preston Robertson for a week during which, according to Robertson, they listened to Clancy Brothers records, drank coffee, ate doughnuts and watched Jeopardy on television. One night, having made no progress with The Bighead, they went to see Baby Boom, and left for New York the next morning.
They abandoned The Bighead, and wrote Barton Fink instead, which concerned a screenwriter with writer's block. Two months later, they returned undaunted to The Bighead, now called Miller's Crossing, 'because we couldn't think of a better title', and attempted to solve the plot problems to their satisfaction. 'Barton Fink sort of washed out our brain and we were able to go back and finish Miller's Crossing.' However, when the shoot was delayed for two week, due to tragic circumstances, the Coens took advantage of the break and rewrote the entire second half of the screenplay.
(via Tom Carden, thanks)
More how we work.