There's a school of thought that says there's no such thing as writer's block. It's an excuse put about by lazy wasters who spend more time dreaming of glitzy literary parties than doing any actual work. But whether or not you subscribe to this view, there's no denying the fact that writing has its bad patches. Sometimes it's extremely difficult indeed. Sometimes it's hard to write anything at all; sometimes it's impossible to believe that what you've written is any good.
Today I'm listing my favourite strategies for getting going again when the going has got tough. You probably have lots more ideas I haven't thought of - if so, please add them in the comments and let's build up a resource that has something for everyone.
1. Fool your brain
I read somewhere  that smiling releases endorphins, so by making yourself smile, you trick your brain into feeling happier. Similarly, you can convince said brain that you're writing. I do this by copying out something I have already written. The act of scribbling makes it easier to carry on beyond the end of the scene, and before I know it, I'm writing something new.
2. Do the fun bit
Skip ahead to an easy scene, or one that's been occupying your mind so much that you can't get on with anything else until you've written it.
3. Tell the dog
Explain verbally what you're trying to achieve. Tell a pet, a tree, a cuddly toy, a tape recorder, or if you're very brave, a writer friend. Articulating the idea brings it into focus, and even if the dog just snuggles deeper into his basket in the hope you'll go away, you have made a statement of intent – once you've said it, you have to get on with it.
4. A change of scene
Try writing somewhere different – in the garden, on a park bench, in a café or library. Or try longhand when you normally use a computer, or vice versa. Break the habit of sitting in the same place staring at the same blank page.
5. Get off your backside
The word “exercise” strikes fear into the heart of those of us who remember shivering on a sleet-swept hockey pitch while a “teacher” with the world view of a Tyrannosaurus Rex (but a smaller brain) screamed “MOOOOOVE!” But it doesn't have to be like that. Exercise includes nice stuff like walking and gardening. Ignore the fact that lots of hugely talented famous writers were drunken slobs – exercise really does renew your mental and physical energy. Honest.
I am trying to convince myself of this more than I'm trying to convince you.
6. Shoot the crap-censor
Writer's block isn't just the blank-page phenomenon – sometimes it means looking back over every sentence with a despairingly critical eye. It all seems so, so dire that you never make any progress. Don't worry, just lower your standards. In fact, don't have any standards at all. Hell, you can even use adverbs if you like. Just bung any old crap on the page. [Caroline makes a superhuman effort to resist the temptation to add “It works for Dan Brown.”]
7. Don't be yourself
If you are not motivated and inspired, act the part of someone who is. Pretend to be a focused, well-organised, supremely talented writer, and get her/him to do the work.
8. Clock on
In a normal job, you must show up and get on with it whether you like it or not. Treat writing the same way for a while - turn up, slog through it, then go home. Others might view your writing as a self-indulgent arty-farty little hobby, and it's difficult not to internalise this attitude and feel that, because you're not guaranteed to make money, it isn't real work. Tell your inner guilt to take a hike, because it is important and it does deserve the time.
9. Tiny goals
Set a minuscule target – to write 100 words, or to edit one page. Every step is an achievement and is far better than neglecting your writing on the basis that you haven't really got time to get into it - with the result that the small amount of time you do have is aimlessly spent watching YouTube vids of funny cats.
10. Wait it out
Tides ebb and flow; so does the writing life. Motivation and inspiration need a rest sometimes – let them rest, and do something else while they take their time to regenerate. Treat 'em mean and keep 'em keen – if you don't agonise over them or lament their absence, chances are they'll come crawling back when you least expect them.
Photograph by Warley Rossi.