All writers go through dry patches where the words just won’t form. For one reason or another, nothing comes out right and you begin to feel as if you will never write again. You stare at the screen willing the words to come and take you away from the agony you are in; the characters in your head are screaming, begging to allowed out into the world and giving you headaches that just don’t go away.
This is Writer’s Block.
It’s not an absence of ideas, just a frustration that you can’t get them out of your head in the right way to form sentences that actually make sense.
There are many ways to beat it – here are my personal favourites:
1) Change your routine.
You write best first thing in the morning normally? Well then forget about writing in the morning and write in the afternoon, or the evening or at midnight. You have to sit and watch the news before you get down to writing? Watch a soap instead… or watch nothing. Change how you would normally work and sometimes the block gets confused by your actions and lets you through.
2) Do something else, equally creative.
Do you know how many writers are also artists? Or knitters, or embroiderers, or photographers? Hundreds. I know so many writers who have an alternative creative side, something physical and immediate that allows them to think about what they are doing with their hands and makes the subconscious work on whatever writing problems they may have.
Personally, I knit, embroider, paint, sculpt, design and make jewellery and accessories. I pick up new creative hobbies whenever the older ones have lost their savour and return to the older ones when I get bored with the new ones. They are usually, incredibly helpful when I’m stuck…
3) Do something else that isn’t creative.
Mow the Lawn. Do the Laundry or the dishes. Take the dog for a walk, go for a bike ride. Bake a cake or two. Get away from the pen/keyboard completely and often when you finally return with the house spotless and the dog exhausted, the words will flow again.
4) Write Anyway.
You might think that this isn’t helpful. How can forcing something that doesn’t want to be, work to breaking the block? But it does work. Funnily enough, a lot of the time, that is why I write a blog post. I pick a random subject from the news or something I saw or heard while I was outside the house, and I ramble on about it. That’s why one of my categories is Random Thoughts and Ramblings – sometimes, just writing about something unrelated to what I am working on is enough to jump the block and make things work again.
5) Change Method.
We writers often get stuck in a rut. We rumble along in our own little worlds and when a blockage shows up in our rut we haven’t the foggiest of an idea of how to eject it again.
So step out of the rut.
If you write Romance, then try writing Horror. Write Fantasy? Have a go at Crime Thrillers. Are you a Contemporary Literary writer? In that case, head for Fantasy. Never written any poetry at all? Have a go! Do you always use a keyboard? Pick up a pencil and some paper and relearn the joy of scribbling words onto the page until it’s covered.
6) Forget Punctuation.
No, I haven’t gone mad. It’s an exercise for your mind. Some people call it Stream of Consciousness writing. For this you need a pen and paper. Not a keyboard or tablet computer; not even a pencil and rubber. This is a messy thing to do and can make the inner editor scream in anguish, but you have to follow the rules:
Do Not cross anything out.
Do Not go back over what you have done until afterwards.
Always set yourself a time limit (or you’ll end up writing like James Joyce) to stick to.
Ignore the rest of the world around you.
Set your timer going and start with the words “This happened a long time ago, in a land far away…”. From there you write whatever comes into your head, even if it’s full of swearwords and anguish. Write as if your life depends on it. Let the thoughts flow through your fingers into the pen. Doodle a little or add illustrations if you can’t think of the words you want.
Keep going until the timer sounds, then stop. Put the paper on the table and walk away from it as if you’d just had your last exam and you want to get to the nearest pub to get sloshed. Go back later and read through. Sometimes it’s gobbledeegook and sometimes it’s wonderful. Either way it will clear your mind and you can always burn it if you want to!
Pick a book at random from your collection and don’t stop reading until you have to. Read bad books (they help you see what you’ve done wrong); Read good books; they’ll inspire your mind and help you with your own work, especially if you can work out why they are good.
You might be wondering why on earth I’m wittering on like this…
Well, I’ve lost my focus.
Stop searching the house please, I know exactly why and where it’s gone, and there’s nothing anyone can do to help me find it again.
I have a number of books that need finishing the first drafts on, a novella poised to be published and a couple of new ideas jotted down in my current notebook that are begging to be worked on. I haven’t got Writers Block – this post tells me that; it’s far too coherent and sensible for me to be blocked.
I just don’t seem to have the energy to even think at the moment. I fall asleep at odd moments (yesterday was a good one – we had AC/DC blasting out of the stereo and the children attempting to sort their toys and bedrooms out, but I still fell asleep!) and I am constantly feeling queasy; often I find myself eating the oddest things in order to stop myself feeling sick.
So I’m re-reading “The Wheel of Time” Series by Robert Jordan; I’m on book four at the moment, and I’m just generally trying to get through the day without blowing up at the kids for no reason at all.
I’m sure if you think about it, you’ll be able to come up with a reason as to why I’m feeling like this. You’ll probably also be able to give me tips and suggestions on ways to cure the problem. Feel free to post them in the comments if you like; doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
All I know is that I don’t feel like writing at the moment and I’m not going to fool around with what my body is telling me… no matter how much my characters scream at me!