Monday, 13 April 2009

Beating The Block

OK, I admit it. Sitting here at the laptop to write my latest post for Strictly, I'm not exactly overflowing with ideas. Everything I think of seems to have been done already, with great wit, panache or flair, by one of my fellow bloggers. Every concept that comes to me seems weak, uninspiring and barely worth the trouble of putting finger to keypad. My stomach is twisting itself up into knots of frustration, my feet are indulging in some frenzied tapping, I'm muttering to myself like a crazed loon... yep, I've got Writer's Block.

We've all been there. That fateful feeling of wanting to write, but feeling as if we've forgotten how to. Unlike most things in the known universe, writing doesn't seem to be like riding a bike. If you fall off, there's no guarantee that you can hop back on in a few months and pedal away at breakneck speed. In fact, sometimes it can feel alarmingly as if you need to learn your craft, and regain your inspiration, all over again, and the longer you allow the block to set in, the more difficult it becomes to drag yourself out of it. So if all this is resonating with you, what can you do? Here's my five-step plan:

1) Allow yourself to mope. You're a sensitive soul - you're a writer, after all. If shedding tears of pain over your inability to create is your thing, let 'em flow. Let yourself appreciate how important this is to you, and why exactly it is that you want to get the knack back. Why does it matter? If you never wrote another word again, what would change? Once you've established why you want to fix the problem...

2) Forget about it. Get out of the house, go for a long walk, go to the cinema or to the shops - whatever method of active relaxation you choose. If you feel yourself starting to think about your writing, give yourself a mental slap. It's amazing how attractive something becomes when it's forbidden, so place a writing ban on yourself for a day, a week, a fortnight.. and fill your time with as many head-clearing distractions as you can without completely maxing out your credit card.

3) Rediscover your role models. Maybe slightly controversial for some - I know a few fellow writers who say that reading work by their idols simply depresses them. Myself, I see it in the spirit of healthy competition. And yes, I know that it's unlikely that Martin Amis or Maggie O'Farrell are going to be quaking in their boots at the thought of the next Rebecca Connell being unleashed on the market, but all the same... Read the books that made you want to become a writer, and remember why.

4) Set yourself a goal. Start small if you like - 500 words in a day, for instance. Without a bit of structure, and something concrete to aim for, I'm all too likely to lose motivation completely. Those of you who have done Nanowrimo - how many other times have you written 50,000 words in a month? Exactly - and yet ultimately, the only thing spurring you on was yourself.

5) Choose a day when you have little else on. Shut yourself in a room with a computer - or a notebook, if you prefer. I like to lock myself in for extra authenticity. Turn off the internet, unplug the television, and open up that Word file. Think about your work, but do not allow yourself to write anything for half an hour (you'd be surprised how quickly that gets boring, and how appealing the idea of writing becomes in comparison to sitting dumbly in front of a screen in a silent room). Then take a deep breath, and dive in...

Good luck! If anyone wants to add their own tips for overcoming writer's block in the comments section, I'm sure we could all use them. As for me, well, would you look at that? Looks like I don't have to come up with an idea for this post after all...

12 comments:

Samantha Tonge said...

Great post, Becky, i'm sure it will resonate with everyone.

I'm not often hit by writers' block (especially when it comes to blogging) - although the superstitious side to me hardly dare write that, in case I tempt fate.

I find tv and tabloids very inspiring so yes, probably your suggestion of going off and doing something is a good one.

Either that or wail and tear your hair out and thump the wall...

:)

Rebecca Nazar said...

Loved this post--great tips.

Julie P said...

I always find having a quiet word with my creativity Angels, Muses, spirits - whatever you want to call them, usually does the trick! Oh that and a bar of Galaxy chocolate.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Great post, Becky.
I've just come out of a loooong period of blockishness, both with my painting and writing, which was pretty agonising. I'm just telling myself that I'm going to PLAY. Play about. With colour or with words or with structure. And that I will intersperse this playing about with pottering about - just doing anything that seems like a nice/good thing to do at the time. So far it's working...
Susiex

HelenMHunt said...

As far as writer's block is concerned, I find it helpful to have a few different projects on the go at once. That way, if one is blocked you can simply move on to another.

Of course, having multiple projects on the go brings its own problems - feeling like your head is going to explode for example. But at least you don't have to worry about not being able to think what to write!

Rebecca Connell said...

Interesting tips! I like the idea of "playing". I agree that having multiple projects on the go can be beneficial, too. And of course chocolate is always a winner! Should have included that in my post... I always have a ready supply.

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Tee hee.
Writer's Choc.
Susiex

Katy said...

Great post Becky, thank you. And I love the idea of writers' choc... :-)

CarolineG said...

Some great advice here, Becky....I also find that just writing down all the old crap that's in my head (yes, including I'M BLOCKED, WAHHHH!) really helps too.

Rebecca Connell said...

LOL, susie!

You're right, Caroline, giving yourself license (licence?!) to write whatever comes into your head can be helpful too, I think... though I cringe when I read it back!

Gillian McDade said...

One of the best short stories I ever read was about a writer having writer's block!
Current news and quirky events can often provide inspiration - and don't forget the little 'it's a weird world' news columns in the daily papers. There's so much mileage in them! :)

cmshevlin said...

Really good post.

Lately it seems that when I'm hit by writer's block it's because I'm trying to write a story or around an idea that doesn't make me all that enthusiastic. So I move to something different and return when I have to.

Also for me, I have to be careful to distinguish between writer's block and writer's procrastination... As in I could write if I made myself but the internet/TV/book is just so much more appealing.