Writer’s Block, Procrastination and Fear…I Know Thee Well.

What ever label you wish to stick on it, sometimes getting words down onto the page is damn hard…almost crippling. Some days I manage zero, other days 200, and then miraculously on others, 2000. Why?

Some writers like Philip Pullman would argue that ‘The Block’ doesn’t exist. He would say that ‘Writer’s block is a condition that affects amateurs and people who aren’t serious about writing’.

I disagree. I am very serious about my writing but sometimes my block or fear is so all-consuming, I want to curl up in bed and pull the doona up over my head for days or even weeks.

Me pulling my hair out...what next?

To those who experience it, writer’s block is very real.
So, having established that, how can you overcome – or at the very least – manage it?

1. Stop writing your work in progress. (What am I saying? You already have stopped because you HAVE writer’s block!)

writers block

Instead, write something completely different.
Step out of your writing comfort zone and walk outside into your back yard, a local park, or the local cafe. How are you feeling? Write about the flowers/coffee you smell or the birds/conversations you hear. Use your five senses to write a paragraph or page that is personal. Just for you!

 

2. Break down your writing. Can’t figure out what comes next? Take your characters on a holiday, an adventure, or unexpected holiday. Santorini looks nice!

A holiday may be the furtherest thing from your protagonist’s mind, but what if? Where would they go and why? How would this adventure propel the story forward?

imagesO8V1LHJC

3. Off the top of my head, ask yourself this of your characters:

What would make this character super successful? A failure?
What WOULDN’T this character do? Do it!
If you were your character, how would you feel? HONESTLY?
Challenge them.

Break the rules…let your imagination run wild. A three legged dog? Why not? A potential love interest lurking in the camellias? Of course.
Keep asking yourself, what if, what if, WHAT IF?

4. Stop when the writing is going well. Finish your days’ writing in the middle of a sentence or scene so that when you start writing again tomorrow or in a week’s time, you remember where you left off and can easily pick it up again with confidence.

writers block25. Get inside your protagonist’s head and have them write to a best friend or relative they haven’t seen for ten years. What’s been happening all that time? Who have they loved? Where have they worked? Who has died? Don’t worry that some or none of this will make it into your novel! You, the creator, are unlocking your character’s past and their motivation for the future. (Profound, huh?)

 

6. Show up! As much as you don’t want to turn up to your writing job at six am, six pm, midnight… or whenever you have the time to write, you need to. Even if it means researching your protagonist’s work, hobby, weird obsession with Birman cats on the internet, it’s progress. (BTW, so is staring out the window.) But seriously, try to write, even if it’s a stream of conscious piece about staring out the window…

7. And what about all those famous authors who hated writing? When you’re really feeling down about yourself, read their biographies…afterwards, you’ll surely feel better!
Including, but not limited to:

James Joyce: “Writing in English is the most ingenious torture ever devised for sins committed in previous lives.”

dorothy parker

 

 

Dorothy Parker: “I hate writing, I love having written.”

 

 

 

Silvia Plath: “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Finally, I especially like this one by John Dos Passos: “If there is a special Hell for writers it would be in the forced contemplation of their own works.
Cheers, John!

Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal: I never reread a text until I am finished the first draft, otherwise it’s too discouraging.

The key with these strategies to overcome Writer’s Block, Procrastination, Fear – whatever you want to call it, is not to lose momentum or faith.

Writing is mostly a solitary profession. It’s easy to lose heart and say ‘I give up’ or ‘I’m crap.’
You’re not, but you need to keep at your job.
As the old, but profound saying goes, ‘you can’t edit a blank page’.
So get to it and write even if it’s only 200 words.

images0I1MADOH zacIf you really can’t write, because, say your cat is sitting on your computer –

then READ, READ and READ some more.
(I’m off to scoff some chocolate.)
How do you overcome writer’s block?

15 thoughts on “Writer’s Block, Procrastination and Fear…I Know Thee Well.

    • Hi Jodi,
      What a lovely comment! Thank you. I always feel like a bit of a fool giving advice, so I just say what works for me. I’m glad the post resonated with you. x

  1. Thank you Lisa, that is a brilliant post with practical advice for us procrastinators suffering writers’ block. My two favourite things to do when I cannot write are:
    1. Just sit in my backyard with a cuppa (and some chocolate of course), armed with pen and notebook, and write about whatever comes to mind.
    2. As I care for my disabled hubby on a full-time basis, I just love to leave the home environment for a couple of hours, whether it be the library, the park or my favourite cafe. I just need to mix it up otherwise I go stir crazy.
    I noticed that you will be doing a library presentation at Leichhardt in April. I would definitely be interested in that one. I was going to register for Sutherland, but it is quite a way from Penrith.
    Happy writing Lisa.
    Cheerio,
    Josephine-Anne

    • Hi Josephine,
      Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I love sitting in the backyard with a cuppa (tea or wine, depending on the time of day)…and yes going to the local library, cafe, etc is also good because it gets you out of your natural environment.
      I would love it if you could come to Leichhardt! Alternatively, maybe I should try to get a gig at the Penrith Library!

  2. Dear Lisa, if I can be so bold. Your insights to writers block are fabulous. I myself have never suffered from a lack of inspiration, but it is heartwarming to see how you all cope with this problem that I personally don’t think really exists. In my self published novels, the ideas flow unhindered by plot , structure or constructive criticism.
    I just can’t stop the idea’s coming! And they said asexual romance wouldn’t work!
    Will be following you closely, now I’ve discovered your wonderful blog.
    Yours
    Patrick

    • Hi Patrick*,
      Lucky you to have never suffered from writer’s block! Do you write?
      Do you suffer from other blockages or perhaps premature excitement? That’s a ghastly affliction, so I hear.
      Ah, asexual romance?
      That explains a lot…No premature whatevs from you!
      Also, Patrick, ‘idea’s’ should be ‘ideas’ – no need for the apostrophe, love!
      Thank you for following my blog. Please keep the comments flowing. xx

      *I know ‘Patrick’. He’s an exceptionally talented buddy. I would never speak to an unknown commenter this way.

  3. Great post, Lisa. I like to pretend that writer’s block doesn’t exist, but I know I have those days or even weeks too. My last WIP I managed to get out 65,000 words in around 8 weeks due to a deadline, but this WIP is going much slower. Maybe because this deadline isn’t as fierce, or maybe I just burnt myself out over summer . . . hmm, that could be it! Great advice though. As much as I don’t want to, when I’m ‘stuck,’ coming at things from a different angle is always how I eventually get going again. As you say, it might be reading or writing something different. In this case, I’ve been thinking about writing my character doing something unexpected, and reading this blog post has convinced me to give it a go and see where that takes me! Love the Dorothy Parker quote too 🙂

    • Hi Belinda, sorry to hear you’re going through a tough time.
      My advice: Write through the pain, no matter how hard it is. Try to keep wriitng. Keep going. Do your best!. You’re doing well. xxx

  4. Fabulous post Lisa and just what I needed as I struggle to maintain momentum with my book. I adore the quote “Writer’s Block: When Your Imaginary Friends Won’t Talk To You”. It made me laugh out loud. One of my character’s actually has an imaginary friend who gets her into trouble! Have a great day. Hope the words are cascading onto your page as we speak.x

    • Hi Shell,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes…where would we be without our imaginary friends! I wish the words were cascading. Instead, I am staring out the window! x

  5. Lisa! I do not need to be told to ready anymore, hahaha!! It already gets in the way of my procrastination towards writing 🙂
    I am very much the Dorothy Parker quote – to have written something is so pleasurable, and yet the act of actually doing it is sometimes painful. Oh we writers are strange beings…
    Loving the tips though, I’ll be saving them for sure. Cheers!

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