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.
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!)
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?
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?
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.
5. 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: “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.”
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.
then READ, READ and READ some more.
(I’m off to scoff some chocolate.)
How do you overcome writer’s block?