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Beating Writers’ Block

September 27th, 2019

First, thanks to Sheila for last week’s blog. It was so packed with useful information and I can’t wait to read her latest novel when it comes out at the beginning of next year. 

At some point in their career many writers suffer from the dreaded ‘writers’ block’.  Other writers claim that there’s no such thing!  They say that you don’t get ‘plumber’s block’ or ‘bank manager’s block’ and if you were a staff journalist on a newspaper and complained of writers’ block you’d soon find yourself out of a job.

Also, there are two rather different scenarios.  In the first, you can be part way through a novel or piece of non-fiction and suddenly you’re unable to take it any further.  In the second, you just can’t think what to write about – you’re stuck for ideas and need inspiration (and, perhaps a little boost to your confidence).  The following tips can apply to both

  1. In either of the cases above – just give yourself a little time away from your writing.  Perhaps you’re trying too hard!  Go and do some gardening, have coffee with a friend or do that pile of ironing that’s been building up.  Once you have relaxed you’ll be surprised how soon you’re ready to start writing again.
  2. Make sure that your surroundings are conducive to writing and that distractions or discomfort are not stopping you from concentrating.  You owe it to yourself to ensure that your writing space (however small) is comfortable and allows you to feel creative.
  3. Nothing is worse than sitting in front of an empty computer screen or a blank piece of paper.  So start writing.  It doesn’t matter if it’s pedestrian and boring because once your writing has started to flow again you can go back and discard it.
  4. And, if you know you have a tendency to writers’ block always finish your day’s work in mid-paragraph, or at an interesting bit in your story so that you have the impetus to jump in and carry on when you come back to it.
  5. If you’re still struggling, why not try writing some letters/emails. This exercises your ‘writing muscle’ and gets words flowing onto paper.  It also has two possible advantages.  Friends and relatives will be glad to get your outpourings and, with a little more work, you could actually earn some money (or gifts) if you target magazines.
  6. If you’re stuck for ideas rather than being stuck on a particular project then there’s nothing better than spending a day reading all those supplements that come with the weekend newspapers.  You’ll be surprised how many ideas they can trigger and you’ll feel relaxed and receptive after a lazy day spent browsing.  Or, if the Internet is more your thing, spend some time just following leads.  It’s not wasted time if it subsequently gets you writing again.
  7. On the other hand, if you are part-way through a novel or article and grind to a halt, go back and make sure that your initial planning is good enough.  Insufficient planning in the early stages can sometimes lead to insurmountable problems later in the project. See Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail.
  8. Another idea is to join a writers’ group.  Being able to exchange ideas and experiences with other writers often brings inspiration.  A more expensive option  – but a good one – is to enrol on a writing course or go on a writers’ holiday.  There are many advertised each year, from distance learning courses to residential ones.  Again, it’s the interaction with your tutor and other writers that can spark ideas.

Some of the above ideas will work for you; some won’t.  But you have to be absolutely honest with yourself – don’t blame it on writers’ block when you have simply chosen a topic for an article that subsequently proves to be a no-hoper.  Or, you have decided to write a novel but then find that you might have enough material for a short story but the plot doesn’t stretch to 70,000 words!  Admit that you’ve made a mistake, cut your losses and move on to something more productive.

Author: Diana Nadin

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